Paddy farmers happy as fertiliser arrives in timeThe ban on the transportation of plant nutrients was lifted in the first week of June, just as farmers were preparing to transplant paddy.
Farmer Hari Narayan Chaudhary of Tilottama-13 laughed all the way home with seven bags of precious fertiliser he had finally got from a cooperative.
The paddy transplantation season had set in, and Chaudhary had been waiting anxiously for more than a month as fertiliser supply had stopped because of the coronavirus lockdown.
The Covid-19 Crisis Management Operations Centre, which has blanket authorisation to take measures to stop the spread of Covid-19, had removed chemical fertiliser from the list of “essential commodities”, barring it from being transported when the stay-home order was issued on April 29.
The decision had affected tens of thousands of Nepali farmers as they feared that there could be a repeat of last year's fertiliser shortage, which made them miss out on a super harvest since the monsoon rains were good and labour was plentiful, as Nepalis working in various parts of India had returned home to escape the pandemic.
But the ban on the transportation of fertiliser was lifted in the first week of June, just as farmers were preparing to transplant paddy, allowing them to heave a sigh of relief.
"This time, we got fertiliser,” Chaudhary said. He bought seven sacks of diammonium phosphate (DAP) and one sack of urea, each weighing 50 kg, and applied the plant nutrients on his paddy field.
Last year, the government faced massive criticism for not being able to supply enough chemical fertiliser during the peak paddy transplantation season.
Notwithstanding a severe shortage of fertiliser, farmers recorded a larger harvest backed by the availability of adequate farm workers and rainfall. Following the fiasco last year, the government took several measures to make sure it did not happen again.
Sagar Lamsal, a resident of Sainamaina, said he was able to finish paddy transplantation on time this year due to the availability of chemical fertiliser and sufficient monsoon rains.
Lamsal, who owns a 5-bigha farm in Sainamaina-9, said he got two 200 kg of urea and DAP and 100 kg of potash from cooperatives. "We had sufficient fertiliser, and hope to raise a good crop this year," he said. Lamsal had planted paddy without fertiliser last year.
“We waited for months last year to get fertiliser. At one point, we even began to rethink about farming as an occupation. But this year, there is something to cheer about.”
In many districts last year, farmers were forced to buy urea smuggled in from India by paying a black market price of Rs50 per kg following a nationwide shortage.
Om Prakash Gupta, chairman of Gautam Buddha Swavalamban Savings and Credit Cooperative in Sammarimai-6, said they distributed sufficient amounts of fertiliser in the ward during this year’s paddy transplantation season.
"We brought 1,400 bags of DAP, 900 bags of urea and 150 bags of potash," he said. "As the current stock is not sufficient, we are in the process of bringing more fertiliser," he added.
The cooperative distributes fertiliser every Tuesday.
Mahesh Prasad Harijan, the head of the agriculture division of Sammarimai Rural Municipality, said that the local government has been distributing chemical fertiliser through eight cooperatives. "This year, farmers did not have to go to the Indian market to buy fertiliser," he said.
The local government has fixed the price of urea at Rs800 per 50 kg, DAP at Rs2,250 per 50 kg and potash at Rs1,650 per 50 kg.
This year, despite the delay in the supply of fertiliser due to the lockdown, paddy transplantation is going on in full swing.
Ganesh Prasad Ghimire, assistant manager of the Bhairahawa branch of Agriculture Inputs Company, said that cooperatives and farmers had been stockpiling fertiliser since mid-January. “We don’t see a shortage of fertiliser this year.”
Agriculture Inputs Company, which is tasked with distribution in Lumbini province, has a stock of 13,717 tonnes of chemical fertiliser—5,656 tonnes of urea, 7,000 tonnes of DAP and 762 tonnes of potash, according to Ghimire.
A shipment of 5,000 tonnes will be arriving soon to shore up inventory, he said, adding that the company had sold 8,083 tonnes of urea, 7,621 tonnes of DAP and 1,078 tonnes of potash in Gulmi, Arghakhanchi and Pyuthan as of mid-June.
Most of the fertiliser was consumed in Rupandehi district as there are many farms there.
Ghimire said that demand for DAP and potash will decline once the paddy transplantation is completed, and farmers will want urea next to apply to their fields.
The government has allocated Rs11 billion in fertiliser subsidies for this fiscal year, up from Rs9 billion in the last fiscal year. The value of total imports of chemical fertiliser hovers around Rs19 billion annually.
According to the Agriculture Ministry, the annual demand for chemical fertiliser currently stands at more than 700,000 tonnes while official imports reach just around 300,000 tonnes.
Subsidised fertiliser fulfils 40 percent of the country’s total requirement while the rest is met by informal imports or shipments smuggled across the open border.