Fertilisers stuck at port as planting season nears

- SHANKAR ACHARYA, PARSA

Oct 26, 2017-

Nearly 42,000 tonnes of fertilisers imported for use during the winter planting season have been stranded at Kolkata port in India due to traffic congestion. 

The shipment of diammonium phosphate (DAP) ordered by state-owned Agriculture Inputs Company (AIC) and Salt Trading Corporation has been stuck at the port for a month while domestic stocks are depleting. 

Ajay Kumar Srivastava, chief of the AIC regional office in Birgunj, said around 20,000 tonnes of DAP were held up at the port. “It’s been nearly a month, and we have not been able to receive our consignment,” he said, adding that the exporter too was becoming concerned by the long delay. 

The traffic jam does not look like easing any time soon. AIC has contracted Willson International Company to supply the DAP from China. AIC has planned to deliver 7,500 tonnes of fertiliser each to its offices in Birgunj and Bhairahawa. The rest will be dispatched to its office in Biratnagar.  

Srivastava said that they were running out of stock of fertiliser. The entire consignment of fertilisers is scheduled to arrive at Kolkata port; and if the traffic jam is not resolved soon, the winter crop may be affected, he said.  

“Currently, we have adequate stocks to fulfill the requirement of farmers. However, if the delay continues, winter crops, particularly wheat which is planted in early November, will be hit.” 

Wheat is the third most important cereal crop in Nepal after rice and maize, both in terms of acreage and production. The country’s annual fertiliser demand stands at 700,000 tonnes while winter crops need 90,000 tonnes. 

Urea and DAP accounts for 65 percent and 25 percent, respectively, of Nepal’s fertiliser demand. Fertilizer imports amount to Rs16 billion. The government has been subsidising fertilisers to the tune of Rs5.5 billion annually. Fertilizers imported by the government fulfil only one-fourth of the country’s total requirement, and the rest is met by informal imports that enter through the porous border with India. 

Last year, the now-dissolved parliamentary Water and Agricultural Resources Committee had urged the government in its study report to boost the supply of subsidized chemical fertilisers besides bringing private firms into the fertiliser trade in order to prevent recurring shortages of the vital farm input.

The report said that the distribution of subsidized fertilisers was ‘very low’ and had been holding down farm productivity.

As chemical fertiliser shortages 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 too by signing a letter of exchange.

The report said that Nepal had an option to import fertilisers through India’s Visakhapatnam port apart from Kolkata and Haldia ports as is being done currently.

Published: 26-10-2017 08:03

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