Government takes action as fertilizer shortage hits rural economy hard

To deal with the shortage before rabi sowing, the Center is fine-tuning logistical operations and adapting the allocation according to crop needs.

Due to economic difficulties, many farmers have defaulted on their loans, making them ineligible for fertilizer subsidies.

Reports of desperation, fury, looting, theft, hoarding and black marketing are pouring in from different parts of the country, due to the acute and unprecedented shortage of DAP (Diammonium Phosphate) fertilizer. In this context, the Center would exert war-footed efforts to ensure that the fertilizer reaches all parts of the country in the right measures, at the right time.

Such measures are essential as the shortage – both nationally and globally – came just before the start of the rabi planting season which begins around November. This year’s monsoon is considered good, but if a shortage of DAP affects rabi plantings, the economy will take a huge hit.

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National DAP stocks as of September 30 were reported at less than 50% of levels a year ago. The fact that world fertilizer prices have reached 12-year highs only heightens concerns.


National despair

Farmers protested in Kishangarh, Ajmer district of Rajasthan last week over the shortage. They demanded to know how to grow crops without DAP. There was rowdiness at a distribution center as there were too few bags for a winding queue of shoppers.

Just last week, farmers looted bags of DAP from a warehouse in Chambal Division of Madhya Pradesh. Police said three such incidents were reported in about a week. There are as many reports of empty warehouses as of hoarding by unscrupulous middlemen.

According to media reports, farmers – especially the elderly and frail – are asking for help from women and school-going children in their families to join the queues for the DAP. This could be worrying as it could affect their own employment and education, women and child protection experts point out.

The government on a mission

To bring the situation under control, the Center is taking steps with missionary zeal. The movement of fertilizers has strict priority. Logistics are handled by the Department of Fertilizers (DoF) of the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers. He works in close coordination with fertilizer manufacturers, state departments of agriculture and railroads.

Previously, the DoF sent fertilizers and other agricultural inputs to states on a monthly basis. Now he has started sending them separately to each district, with the quantity adapted to the specific sowing needs.

Crops that need fertilizer are also assessed. Some, like mustard and potato, are sown in October, while others, like wheat, are sown later. Thus, the Center is focusing on faster allocation to mustard and potato sowing districts such as Khori and Jhajjar in Haryana.

Root cause

Much of the DAP shortage is blamed on global factors. Still, problems specific to India are making the situation worse, agricultural experts say.

Amid a difficult period for the rural economy, partly triggered by the pandemic, farmers are increasingly opting for more “lucrative” crops. The resulting change in crop patterns is said to have partly led to the rapid depletion of DAP stocks.

It is considered that the rampant and uncontrolled black market has left a large amount of inventory in the hands of unscrupulous dealers. State governments are taking steps to contain them, but the problem is so entrenched that it is proving a difficult task.

In addition, due to economic difficulties, many farmers have defaulted on their loan repayments. This makes them ineligible for fertilizer subsidies, forcing them to buy on the open market at higher rates.

About Keneth T. Graves

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