No shortage of fertilizers for the coming season

900MT of urea fertilizer worth NU 26mn is stored in the country

Last year, farmers across the country faced an acute shortage of fertilizers and pesticides due to the prolonged border closure triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. There is a problem in acquiring the required number of fertilizers and pesticides.

A fertilizer shortage has added to growing concerns about the Ukraine war’s impact on the price and scarcity of certain basic foods. Prime Minister (Dr) Lotay Tshering also shared that global food shortages, starvation, and hunger have always existed, and it has worsened by the Russian-Ukrainian war. He stated that production is going to be less due to an acute shortage of chemical fertilizers.

However, in the coming season, the Officiating Director, Department of Agriculture (DoA), Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF), Namgay Thinley said that there won’t be a shortage of fertilizers in the country.

“The shortage of fertilizers last year is mainly due to the pandemic and there were some difficulties in importing,” he said, adding that some restrictions in the movement of vehicles have hampered transportation causing the shortage of fertilizers in the country.

“This year we are more comfortable,” he said, adding that we have mobilized enough fertilizers for the coming season.

He shared that for the coming season, the country has received around 2,496 metric tonnes (MT) of Suphala fertilizer from Yara International, an international fertilizer company based in Norway, and yet we are in process of receiving those fertilizers.

“Like in several countries, fertilizer supply has been affected because of the Russia-Ukraine war. Several companies were trying to get benefit out of this situation by raising their prices,” he said.

In addition, National Seed Centre (NSC) based in Paro has imported the fertilizer and currently, around 900 MT of Urea fertilizer worth Nu 26mn is stored.

“Again, we are in process of importing about 400MT of urea, 500MT of SSP (single super phosphate), and then 9.5MT of urea potash,” he said, adding that it will cost around Nu 27.14mn for the import of additional fertilizer.

To ensure adequate supply to the farmers ahead of the season, both by ramping up domestic production and partnerships with other countries, the ministry is also exploring liquid fertilizers which have a lesser impact on the environment as compared to normal chemical fertilizers.

“We are exploring liquid fertilizer from other countries and trying to research whether the fertilizer is effective in enhancing the crop productivity so in the future we will try to shift from the chemical fertilizers to liquid fertilizers,” said Officiating Director.

He added that there is a need to explore options and promote the use of alternate fertilizers such as urea and organic fertilizers. Further, he said that supplying fertilizers to all districts without any delay is based on the requirement indicated. “There is ample import of fertilizers and no shortage across the country.”

For instance, most of the farmers in the country use chemical fertilizer, and most opines that without chemical fertilizer, their work goes all in vain. “Every year farmers depend upon the chemical fertilizer distributed by the government and without this, farmers’ work in the field goes in vain.”

Earlier this year, the issue of fertilizer was recently raised in the National Assembly. However, Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor informed the House that about 2,500MT of fertilizer was imported. The ministry facilitates the import of affordable fertilizer from India and Bangladesh.

Farmers were concerned about the insufficient supply of fertilizers, and Sanam Lyonpo said that although the ministry got one-time approval to import 2,000MT of chemical fertilizers on December 30, there was an issue with the price.

He said that the commercial rate of the fertilizer was around Nu 87,000 per MT, which the farmers cannot afford, adding that the foreign ministry was negotiating with the Indian embassy to allow the import at a subsidized rate.

A farmer from Kawang gewog said, “During the cultivation of potatoes this year, I had to wait for the chemical fertilizer to arrive in the gewog center, which, delayed my potato cultivation.”

He said that most of them depend upon the fertilizer distributed by the government as the organic fertilizer made by them is not as effective as the chemical fertilizer they use. He said that chemical fertilizer is used for veggies and most of them use the fertilizer during potato cultivation.

Some of the farmers said that “It is important that government official plan in advance and assess for the district wise requirement every week. There is an ample quantity of balanced and unutilized fertilizer in various districts.

“Daily regular monitoring will inform us in advance for better management. The supply Centre has been supplying fertilizer to the district without any delay based on the requirement indicated.”

The officiating Director said that the Centre is working relentlessly to meet the Urea requirement of the country in the forthcoming season. “If we use chemical fertilizer, yes it will enhance productivity but in long term, it is not very good for the environment and the sustainability of agriculture.”

He shared that a lot of places in the country use chemical fertilizer, which, the quality and the structure of the soil is found much detonated. “So that is why the chemical fertilizer in the long run is not good for the environment and agriculture.”

The agriculture ministry urged to enhance awareness and motivate farmers for judicious use of fertilizers and reduction of wastage and misuse.

“Let us also explore options and promote the use of alternative fertilizers such as urea and organic fertilizer which protect the soil and are more productive; less amount of urea will be used contrary to the quantity used at present and contribute to higher nutrient use efficiency,” he said.

Further, it is one reason the government is promoting the production of organic fertilizers like vermicompost, a process of cultivating earthworms to convert organic waste into fertilizer and organic compost from waste materials.

“Although the production with the in-made organic fertilizer might not be good like the chemical fertilizers, it will be very helpful for the environment and agriculture,” he said.

Similarly, through the national organic flagship program, the government is encouraging entrepreneurs to come up with more ideas for organic fertilizers.

Meanwhile, the import of fertilizer is done by the government agency. A private individual is not allowed to import and distribute the fertilizer mainly to control, monitor, regulate, and minimize the use of chemical fertilizers in the country.

The annual requirement of fertilizer for the country ranges from 4500 metric tonnes to 5000 metric tonnes.

To ensure that the soil nutrients are available at less cost and are of high quality, Minister Narendra Modi on Monday rolled out a scheme for farmers under which all fertilizer manufacturing and market companies will sell soil nutrients under a single brand “Bharat”.

The uniform-designed bags across the country will now mention them as Bharat urea. With this, farmers in India will get rid of the misunderstanding and they will get high-quality fertilizers.

However, the Government of India has responded positively to various trade-related requests from Bhutan, recently. The Government of India will be supplying 10,000 litres of Nano Urea and Nano Nitrogen Fertilizer (Liquid) to Bhutan through the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO), at a special concessional rate.

This is intended to benefit the Bhutanese farmers who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, both for domestic consumption and the export market.

Sherab Dorji from Thimphu