State-owned chemical fertiliser supplier says there will be no scarcity this winterRecurrent shortages of the crop nutrients have been the bane of Nepali farmers.
Recurrent shortages of chemical fertiliser have been the bane of Nepali farmers, but this winter there will be plenty to go around, officials of the Agriculture Inputs Company said.
The summer growing season was marked by a severe shortage of the plant nutrients, and farmers are starting to worry as the winter growing season is fast approaching.
The problem will not reappear for winter crop cultivation, the state-owned fertiliser supplier said.
But officials of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development are not so sure. At least two ministry sources told the Post that there was a chance of diammonium phosphate (DAP) running short this winter, even though they had adequate stocks of urea and more on order.
With the festival season coming to an end, farmers will start making preparations to plant winter crops—wheat, maize, barley, vegetable and lentil. They will require a huge quantity of DAP immediately—at least 60,000 tonnes—for the period mid-November to mid-December.
Bishnu Prasad Pokharel, spokesperson for Agriculture Inputs Company, said there would be no chemical fertiliser shortage this winter, unlike in the summer.
An acute shortage of the vital nutrients during the paddy plantation period had shaken up the country with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli himself asking his Bangladeshi counterpart to dispatch some right away.
Agro experts said that Nepal had a chance to reap a record paddy harvest because of a timely monsoon and abundant farm labour, but the government blew it due to its weak chemical fertiliser supply mechanism.
The cultivation of winter crops has already begun in the hills. In the Tarai plains, farmers will begin sowing wheat after the Chhath festival.
“We currently have 19,000 tonnes of DAP in stock and have started supplying it to the farmers. This is one-third of the total requirement for winter crops, particularly wheat,” said Pokharel.
“So we still need more of the fertiliser; but we have large quantities on order, and we expect the shipments to arrive on time,” he said.
DAP is the world's most widely used phosphorus fertiliser, and it is the starter for wheat crops. The input is applied during the sowing and tillering periods. After that, urea is applied during topdressing with the first or second irrigation. Topdressing is the process of adding a second round of nitrogen.
Pokharel said that farmers require 60,000 tonnes of DAP and 70,000 tonnes of urea for their wheat crops.
Wheat is the third largest contributor to Nepal’s agricultural output after paddy and maize. The contribution of wheat in the agricultural GDP is more than 7 percent, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.
Pokharel said that apart from the 19,000 tonnes of DAP in stock which is already being issued to the farmers, it has 80,000 tonnes on order. He said they expected to receive a shipment of 55,000 tonnes within a few weeks.
"Farmers will use urea for top dressing. This year, there will be more than enough of it.” He said that a shipment of 90,000 tonnes of urea was on its way.
In addition, the cabinet has approved the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development's proposal to import chemical fertiliser from Bangladesh through a government-to-government deal.
But the ministry has not received any communication about the cabinet decision even though it was made weeks ago, Pokharel said. “We will begin the process to import the fertiliser as soon as we get word from the ministry.”
Goraknath KC, chief of Agriculture Inputs Company’s regional office in Birgunj, said that a shipment of 30,000 tonnes of urea would be arriving in Nepal next week.
The supplier has started loading the fertiliser on railway rakes in Kolkata, he said. The consignment was dispatched by a Swiss-Singaporean company from Belarus.
The regional offices of the Agriculture Inputs Company in Birgunj, Bhairahawa and Biratnagar will each be issuing 10,000 tonnes of the shipment.
“This consignment will fulfil the immediate needs for the wheat crop,” he said, adding that since the farmers were busy harvesting paddy, demand for urea has not picked up.
Wheat is grown on more than 705,800 hectares, and it is currently the harvest season. In the last fiscal year, good weather helped Nepali farmers to produce a bumper wheat harvest of 2.18 million tonnes, 9 percent more than in the previous year.
(Shankar Acharya contributed reporting from Parsa.)