Vol. 5 Num 558 Wed. December 21, 2005  
Front Page

Farm output may be hit as fertiliser supply stopped

Uncertainty looms large over this year's agricultural production, as fertiliser importers have stopped supplying the key agricultural input to 3,000 dealers across the country protesting the finance ministry's inertia to release outstanding fertiliser subsidies.

The strike came at a time when the farmers apply 80 percent of their yearly fertiliser requirement to their boro, potato and other winter crops.

With subsidies amounting to Tk 100 crore remaining stuck in red tapes, fertiliser importers have been on a strike since Monday stopping supply of fresh stocks to dealers across the country forcing farmers to demonstrate demanding fertilisers while the dealers had to go back empty-handed from the market.

Amid fear of a huge yield loss in boro, the country's main rice crop, due to the looming chemical fertiliser crises, a meeting between Bangladesh Fertiliser Association (BFA) and the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) ended inconclusively yesterday with the latter passing the blame on the finance ministry for not releasing the long overdue subsidies.

The government introduced a 25 percent subsidy on imported fertilisers including triple super phosphate (TSP), murate of potash (MoP) and di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) in the last fiscal. Under the new arrangement fertiliser importers started selling their imported stock at a 25 percent rebate with guaranteed refunds from the government.

The importers received Tk 171 crore of the allocated Tk 271 crore rebate. The rest remains unpaid since last June.

BFA Chairman Kofiluddin Ahmed told The Daily Star yesterday that approval for a chunk amounting Tk 60 crore has been lying with the finance ministry for months while agriculture ministry is scrutinising the bills for Tk 20 crore more and the deputy commissioners are yet to approve the remaining Tk 20 crore.

"We can no longer afford to provide the dealers and farmers with fertilisers at 25 percent rebate. Since the dues were not paid, importers are no longer interested to supply fertiliser," said the BFA chairman frustratingly, claiming to have written pleading letters to the finance minister, finance secretary, and even to the Prime Minister's Office to resolve the issue but to no avail.

Following the meeting with BFA delegation yesterday, Agriculture Minister MK Anwar told The Daily Star, "They are really in a cash crunch. I've repeatedly asked the finance ministry to clear the outstanding subsidies and even sent a demi-official letter to the finance secretary on December 15 but nothing has transpired so far."

Anwar claimed to have approved the subsidy bills several months ago and said that he had sent them to the finance ministry. He also said he did not know what makes the ministry to continue sitting on the bills for so long. He asked The Daily Star correspondent to better inquire the finance ministry about the matter.

Finance Secretary Siddiqur Rahman Chowdhury quipped over the phone from his home, "Yes, the matter is under consideration," and refused to say anything more about the delay in releasing the subsidies.

Market sources said, as none of the 3,000 dealers across the country can afford to keep more than 50 tons of non-urea fertilisers in stock at a time, their stocks are depleting pretty quickly due to serious demand in this boro season.

The dealers fear that if the supply-stoppage continues for a few more days a serious shortage of fertilisers will occur forcing the farmers to count their losses in lost yields.

Market sources fear that due to non-realisation of the subsidies, importers would stockpile nearly four lakh tonnes of imported TSP, MoP and DAP in the warehouses and would start selling those without giving the 25 percent rebate.

A rise by 25 percent in fertiliser prices would mean that the farmers would have to pay Tk 850 for a 50-kg bag of MoP instead of Tk 595 that they pay now, for DAP they would have to pay Tk 1250 instead of Tk 841 and for TSP Tk 940 instead of Tk 700.

Our Jessore correspondent, Abu Bakr Siddique, reports that over 300 dealers and wholesale traders at the country's prime fertiliser market at Nowapara refrained from selling a single bag of fertiliser on Monday due to the supply stoppage called by BFA. Retail sellers of several districts including the northern part of the country who came to buy fertilisers from Nowapara wholesale market had to go back empty-handed.

Our Dinajpur correspondent Konkon Karmaker sent a dispatch last night reporting that local sugarcane farmers at Panchagarh staged a demonstration protesting price hike of chemical fertilisers and insecticides.