Centre Claims No Shortage of Fertilisers, Official Records Show Otherwise
Union ministers said there wasn't any shortage of fertilisers, but data point at vast gaps between requirement and availability across India
Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar told the Rajya Sabha on December 3, 2021 that there has been no shortage of fertilisers in the 2021-22 Rabi season.
When Rajya Sabha MP Dr CM Ramesh asked whether farmers in the country are facing shortage of fertilisers, Tomar responded saying, "No Sir. There has been no shortage of fertiliser in the ongoing Rabi 2021-22 season."
This has been the Centre's response whenever asked about the shortage of fertilisers in the past year. On November 23, 2021, Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers Mansukh Mandaviya claimed that there was no shortage of fertilisers and he urged states to monitor requirement and supply on a daily basis for productive fertiliser management.
Similarly, in another Lok Sabha response, Mandaviya, while denying the shortage of fertilisers, also said the Centre had received complaints from some states regarding shortage of Diammonium phosphate (DAP) fertiliser. He also said that before the commencement of each cropping season, Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare (DA&FW), in consultation with all the states, assesses state-wise and month-wise requirement of fertilisers.
Similar responses have been given in the previous months as well. However, this claim doesn't check out because data from the Department of Fertilizers, Government of India, show that availability and sales of fertilisers, such as Muriate of Potash (MOP) and DAP, has reduced significantly.
A fertiliser is a chemical product, either mined or manufactured material, containing one or more essential plant nutrients that are immediately or potentially available in sufficiently good amounts, according to the Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers (MoCF).
The main fertilisers used on crops, especially during the two cropping seasons: kharif (April to September) and rabi (October to March) in India are Urea, DAP, MOP, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPKS), Single Super Phosphate (SSP) and Triple Super Phosphate (TSP).
The MoCF records show that the requirement for DAP in October was 18.08 lakh metric tonnes (MT) but only over 9.7 lakh MT DAP was available and of this only 9.1 lakh MT was sold. This means the country could not provide nearly half (49.64%) of the required quantity of DAP fertilisers to farmers. In November too, there was a shortage of around 21% of DAP in the country.
Similarly, there was a shortage of 59.37% of MOP fertilisers in October. While the requirement for MOP was 3.43 lakh MT, only a little over 1.71 lakh MT was available and 1.39 lakh MT of MOP was sold. The next month, this shortage rose to 71.7%.
India mainly imports Urea, DAP and potassium chloride, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. Urea accounts for 82% of the total consumption of fertilisers, while DAP accounts for 63% of consumption followed by the consumption of other complex fertilizers (27%).
In October 2021, the requirement of urea was 36.15 lakh MT, of which 26.27 lakh MT was made available and 24.16 lakh MT was eventually sold, showed data maintained by Department of Fertilizers. This shows a shortage of 33%, which increased to 35% the next month.
In fact, since DAP is supposed to be cheaper than NPK, farmers generally prefer DAP despite its quality being lower than NPK, Surendra Nath Tripthi, deputy manage, Indian Farmers and Fertiliser Cooperative (IFFCO) Kisan Seva Kendra at Barabanki district, told IndiaSpend.
When it comes to NPKS, records show that stock availability was more than required. However, the government did not sell enough leading to a 12.5% and 19% shortage of NPKS in October and November, respectively.
Farmers queued up outside the same IFFCO centre told IndiaSpend that they line up there from 5 am waiting for fertilisers and while only a few get it, those who do said they didn't get enough for their crops.
FactChecker tried contacting Tomar for a clarification via call and email, but did not receive a response at the time of publishing this article.