Centre denies fertiliser shortage; farmers flag scarcity of key nutrient
Reports of shortages, particularly of non-urea-based di-ammonium phosphate (DAP), come in the middle of a busy rabi or winter-sown cropping season, which accounts for nearly half of the country’s annual food output, ranging from wheat to lentils and oilseeds.
The Centre has denied reports of shortage of fertilisers amid peak winter sowing across the country. Yet, farmers in some regions reported scarcity of a key crop nutrient known as DAP, especially in Bihar, where cultivators reported black-marketing and price gouging.
Reports of shortages, particularly of non-urea-based di-ammonium phosphate (DAP), come in the middle of a busy rabi or winter-sown cropping season, which accounts for nearly half of the country’s annual food output, ranging from wheat to lentils and oilseeds. Last week, farmers in Bundelkhand held large protests outside fertiliser shops due to non-vailibility of DAP.
“The position with respect to availability of fertilisers is comfortable and there is weekly monitoring of movement of fertilisers.,” an official said, requesting not to be quoted.
A plentiful winter harvest, which will hit markets next year, is critical for Asia’s third-largest economy, as extreme weather shriveled both wheat and rice crops this year, sending federally held stocks to multi-year lows. Despite the cooling of the overall consumer inflation rate, cereal prices rose 12.96% in November from 12.08% in the previous month, latest data showed. Retail inflation in wheat leapt 19.67% in November against 17.64% in October.
A second official said the country had “sufficient stocks of urea” and since India has been able to shift to cheaper sources of gas from costlier ones in recent months, prices had come down and the government has been able to save about ₹3200 crore in December alone. Stocks of DAP too were sufficient to meet overall demand, the official added.
On Tuesday, minister of state for chemicals and fertilisers Bhagwant Khuba told Rajya Sabha that there was no paucity of crop nutrients. “The availability of DAP fertilizer has remained comfortable in the country,” the minister stated in a written reply.
Despite the Centre’s claims, chaotic scenes played out in many districts of Bihar. Farmers in the state, a major grower of wheat, winter paddy and pulses, reported shortages and long queues at designated fertiliser dealer shops, triggering protests. “The situation in East Champaran is particularly bad,” said Ram Prasad, a local Bharatiya Kisan Union leader of East Champaran. Farmers are sleeping outside fertilizer shops to get hold of crop nutrients, he said.
According to official data, the total requirement of DAP across the country for the rabi sowing for 2022-23 is estimated to be nearly 5.5 million tonnes. Of this, on a pro rata basis, the demand for DAP from October 1 to December 12 2022 stood at 3.8 million tonne.
During this period, cumulatively, there was surplus availability of DAP at 4.7 million tonne, the fertiliser ministry’s data showed. Actual sales registered during October 1 to December 12, the latest period for which data are available, were at 3.6 million tonne.
Bihar’s pro rata demand of DAP for this period stood at 257000 tonne compared to availability of 322000 tonne. Against this, actual sales were registered at 261000 tonne, official data showed.
Last week, in Uttar Pradesh’s Bundelkhand, farmers affiliated to the Bundelkhand Kisan Union held protests in Mahoba, Banda and Chitrakoot blocks against shortage of DAP. “There are long queues. There’s also black-marketing (of DAP) in the Bundelkhand region,” Vimal Sharma, president of Bundelkhand Kisan Union said over phone.