Vol. 5 Num 994 Sun. March 18, 2007  

The fertiliser crisis
Farmers' concerns must be addressed
The old fertiliser question crops up again. The Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation would have us know that 85,000 metric tons of fertiliser were supplied to 16 northern districts of the country against a minimum requirement of 1,05,000 metric tons for the current boro season. The shortfall is cause for worry. What makes the worry more acute is the fact that warehouses have lately been found to be empty of stocks, with the result that farmers in these districts have been getting jittery about the problem. And well they might, but there are too the reasons behind the problem that need quick addressing. Those reasons centre on transport handicaps, which again are a consequence of poor river navigation in a season noted for a relatively low water level in the rivers.

Obviously, it is a predicament which comes in tandem with others. There are delays in the supply chain. But when you add to that the further delay caused by a group of agents, who easily make it appear that a labour shortage makes it difficult for fertiliser to be unloaded, you comprehend a little more how perfectly normal problems can get entwined with man-made ones. Which is why it now makes sense to suggest that the authorities go for some swift emergency measures to tackle the issue. One of the ways of dealing with the problem ought to be a review of the whole dealership principle in the long run, including the role of middlemen in the supply of fertiliser. All too often, complaints about a delayed supply or non-supply of fertiliser to farmers have directly involved middlemen. The matter thus acquires urgency of a sort. Beyond that, the authorities could from here on mull over a diversification of supply through utilizing district as well as local bodies. Simultaneously, a significant change in the situation can be brought about through open market sales of fertiliser. It must be borne in mind that before any serious level of public resentment arises over an inadequate supply of fertiliser, concerted efforts must be made to meet up the deficit where the problem threatens to be acute.

Meanwhile, the authorities, as a way of allaying public concerns, would do well to come forth with a statement regarding the production, possible import, stock conditions and distribution of fertiliser. Such a step will throw up a clearer picture of the situation before the country, especially to its farming population.