Govt urged to bring private sector into fertiliser tradeLawmakers have urged the government to boost the supply of subsidised chemical fertilisers so that more farmers can benefit and bring private firms into the fertiliser trade in order to prevent recurring shortages of the vital farm input.
Lawmakers have urged the government to boost the supply of subsidised chemical fertilisers so that more farmers can benefit and bring private firms into the fertiliser trade in order to prevent recurring shortages of the vital farm input.
A sub-committee of the parliamentary Water and Agricultural Resources Committee, formed last June to study problems in chemical fertiliser imports, distribution, quality, farmers’ access to fertilisers and the government’s current policy, said in its report submitted on Sunday that the distribution of subsidized fertilisers was “very low”, holding down farm productivity.
According to the sub-committee, 500,000 tonnes of chemical fertilisers are used annually in Nepal, but the government has been subsidising only half of the amount. The government spends Rs5 billion on fertiliser subsidies annually.
The report has also suggested drafting a Fertiliser Act to properly manage and monitor its supply, use and consumption. Due to the lack of awareness, the report said, farmers have been using excessive amounts of urea that has been destroying the soil.
“The government needs to launch programmes to educate farmers about the balanced used of soil fortifiers,” the report said. “It should send technicians to each district to teach farmers to use fertilisers properly to increase output without affecting soil health.”
As shortages of chemical fertiliser occur every year, the report has asked the government to shorten the lengthy consignment process. In case of a crisis, the government can fast-track shipments by making a government-to-government deal with India, but the process needs to be fair and transparent, the report said.
Currently, chemical fertilisers are imported through Birgunj Customs only. The lawmakers have suggested reviewing the existing Nepal-India transit agreement so that they can be shipped through other border points by signing a letter of exchange.
The report said that Nepal had an option to import fertilisers through Visakhapatnam port, apart from Kolkata and Haldia ports as is being done currently.
The country spends Rs15 billion annually on importing fertilisers, so it would be a good idea to immediately start work on establishing a chemical fertiliser plant here, the report said.
The report said that chemical fertiliser was a ‘public good’ and has recommended to the government to set uniform prices. “Uniformity in the rates will make it easier for the government to monitor market prices and also help farmers.”
Likewise, the sub-committee report has asked the government to open the fertiliser trade to the private sector by fixing their import quota and making a rational adjustment to the subsidy policy to induce it to come on board.
The report said that a limited distributing mechanism had prevented farmers from getting fertiliser on time, and many were being forced to pay extra.
Farmers have been importing low quality fertiliser, and laboratories need to be set up in all the proposed provinces and in places where consumption is high in order to ensure quality control, the report said.
The report said that farmers and traders had been importing fertiliser from bordering towns which has given rise to quality issues. Bad fertilisers have been destroying the soil and lowering production, it added.
The sub-committee also said in its report that the cost of transportation of fertilisers of state suppliers was not transparent. Salt Trading Corporation and Agriculture Inputs Company are the chief importers and suppliers of fertilisers in Nepal.
Likewise, the distribution of fertilisers to farmers through cooperatives is not transparent in many districts, the report said.