LAHORE: The unavailability of fertiliser at the time of wheat sowing has created concerns about the crop’s per acre yield as the federal government has upped the target from 27.3 million tonnes of last year to 30mt for this season.

The federal authorities could not ensure the availability of both diammonium phosphate (DAP) and urea fertilisers though the Punjab Agriculture Department flagged the issue well in time, in the month of September, says an official.

At least one bag per acre of DAP is applied while preparing the land for sowing wheat, while three bags of urea are applied during the growth period of the crop.

“The rate of DAP, 60 per cent of which is imported, as well as of urea fertiliser began increasing in the international markets by the mid-year and federal authorities had been requested to handle the issue in time but, perhaps, other priorities made them overlook it,” the official said.

Around 80 per cent difference of rates of urea fertilizer, which is produced locally, in domestic and international prices has encouraged smuggling of the compost to neighbouring countries. The official rate of urea in the domestic market is Rs1,800 per bag while in the international markets it is being sold at Rs9,500 per bag – a whopping difference of Rs7,700 per bag.

A senior agriculture official claims that the Pakistani Sona Urea brand had been smuggled to even Central Asian states for the past many years for its quality and low price. This year its smuggling increased manifold, while some local middlemen also hoarded the compost to earn some extra bucks by selling it in the black market.

He says the country was in surplus as far as the urea compost is concerned and refers to a recent plea of the urea manufacturers seeking permission of the federal government for export of the surplus commodity.

Farmers and private experts are fearing that the shortage of the compost may damage the per acre yield of wheat, provincial agriculture authorities are, however, downplaying the factor, saying that the fertiliser shortage may be overcome through efficient use of the available commodity.

Director-General Agriculture (Extension) Dr Anjum Ali Buttar says they have already launched a vigorous awareness campaign to guide the farmers about the efficient use of farm inputs. He believes that even half a bag of urea could give satisfactory results provided the growers follow the guidelines being given by the department.

He says the department has introduced a track and trace system for seed this year for use of quality wheat seed and at least 11.27 million bags of seed under the system have been supplied in the market.

Published in Dawn, December 22nd, 2021

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