HYDERABAD: As wheat crop sowing comes to a close in Sindh, farmers complain that higher prices of urea — and at times its unavailability — are likely to affect crop productivity across the province.

Wheat growers stress that remedial measures must be taken immediately, especially against hoarders.

However, the fertiliser review committee in its weekly meeting, presided over by Minister for Industries and Production Khusro Bakhtyar, noted on Friday that punitive measures undertaken against hoarders and profiteers had resulted in a significant reduction in urea prices close to the notified rate of Rs1,768 per 50kg bag.

Growers want immediate remedial action against fertiliser hoarders

The committee not only ruled out any shortage of urea for the Rabi season but also noted that its price had declined significantly.

But stakeholders in Sindh paint a different picture.

Hidayatullah Chhajro, the director general of Sindh government’s agriculture extension department, told Dawn by phone on Saturday that urea fertiliser was being smuggled to Afghanistan to make an extra buck. “Sindh is not getting its share and big dealers have hoarded it and supply this important farm input to sub-dealers at a higher price,” he said.

Against the provincial requirement of 14.5 million bags, fertiliser factories issued 9.3m bags, he said. Besides, the bulk of these bags had been dumped by big dealers, he added.

“The situation has improved in Hyderabad, Tando Allahyar, Tando Mohammad Khan and Sukkur to some extent and the price dropped by Rs150 per bag,” he remarked. Hoarders would be dealt with by the district administration, he said.

The wheat crop has been grown on around 1.15 million hectares (over 2.84m acres) in Sindh this season and the demand for urea has increased as a result. At least two bags of urea are applied per acre within 45 days of sowing wheat crop in addition to a bag of diammonium phosphate. Three major fertiliser producing industrial units — Fauji Fertiliser Corporation, Engro and Fatima — cater to urea’s needs of the farm sector.

However, farmers complain that urea prices remain unusually higher. “I myself bought a 50kg urea bag for Rs2,800, which is significantly higher than the officially notified price of Rs1,768,” said Nabi Bux Sathio, the vice president of the Sindh Chamber of Agriculture.

On Dec 22, Sindh’s agriculture secretary informed the federal secretary of the Ministry of Industries and Production about the shortage of urea in Sindh, fearing a decrease in the per-acre yield of wheat in the province.

According to his figures, 97pc of wheat sowing target had been achieved in Sindh, but urea shortage may affect the crop. Referring to a letter of Sindh agriculture department’s director general, he said that a shortage of 268,574 tonnes of urea (or 5.371m bags) was being reported in 23 districts of the province.

“Growers are buying urea bags for Rs2,400 and Rs2,800 from the open market, which may lead to a loss of Rs5 billion to Rs7bn to farmers in terms of increased costs if the situation persists,” said Sindh Abadgar Board vice president Mehmood Nawaz.

He said the urea shortage was unfathomable since there was no shortage of gas for fertiliser factories. He estimated that around 8m urea bags of 50kg each were required for wheat crop alone and another 1m bags for other Rabi crops like sunflower, rapeseed, etc. “This trend, if continues, will impact the Kharif crop sowing as well,” he said.

Published in Dawn, December 27th, 2021

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