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How Bangladesh trying to ensure ‘fertilizer security’?

There is an energy and food crisis worldwide. None of the global supply systems is in a normal state. Amid this, if we want to produce more food, we must maintain the supply of fertilizer because it is directly related to food production.

Fertilizers are essential for crop production systems in modern agriculture. Among the regulators affecting crop production, fertilizers play a very important role in increasing yield. In fact, the success of the Bangladesh agricultural production system is dependent on inorganic fertilizers. Because these fertilizers are responsible for 50 percent of the total production. However, the contribution of fertilizers to crop production also depends on crop, crop density, season, soil properties and management etc.

Chemical (inorganic) fertilizers were introduced in Bangladesh in the early fifties as a supplementary source of plant nutrients. But with the introduction and expansion of modern varieties of crops and the creation of irrigation facilities, the use of these fertilizers has steadily increased since the mid-sixties. The trend of increasing fertilizer use, especially urea-nitrogen, continues.

Due to the increase in the price of fertilizer in the international market and Russia-Ukraine war, the government of Bangladesh has to buy fertilizer at least three times the price. On the other hand, the prices of fertilizers sold at subsidized prices in the local market are not able to increase. As a result, the amount of subsidy is increasing. The government of Bangladesh is describing it as ‘both crises’.

Although Bangladesh is a major agricultural country, almost all of its fertilizer requirements are imported from abroad. But regardless of the import price, the government sells the fertilizer to the farmer at a nominal price, adding a subsidy. But in the last one year, the price of fertilizer in the international market has almost tripled. Bangladesh is taking several new steps in agriculture.

Most of the fertilizer we need in our country has to be brought from abroad. But due to the coronavirus, ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and the increase in oil prices, the prices of fertilizers have gone up a lot. Fertilizer factories in many countries have closed, they have stopped or reduced exports. As a result, the demand has increased compared to the supply, so the price has also increased.

Urea, TSP, DAP and MOP fertilizers are mainly used in agriculture in Bangladesh. But a year ago, one metric ton of urea was bought for 500 dollars from the international market, but now it has exceeded 800 dollars. The price of TSP fertilizer is 200/300 dollars but it is being sold at 600/700 dollars. As a result, the government is forced to buy fertilizers at higher prices.

With the increase in oil prices, the cost of transportation has also increased. That is also added to the price. 

According to media reports, Bangladesh requires 26.5 lakh tons of urea fertilizer every year. But the production in Bangladesh is about 10 lakh tons. The rest of the demand is imported from Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Seven and a half lakh metric tons of TSP fertilizer is required. But production in the country is one lakh metric tons. The rest is imported from Morocco, Tunisia. 1.6 lakhs of DAP fertilizer are required. Out of that, 1.5 million metric tons of fertilizer is imported from abroad. This fertilizer is mainly imported from China and Jordan. The demand for MOP fertilizer is 8 lakhs, all of which is imported from Belarus, Russia, Canada.

Urea fertilizer production could have been increased in the country.” But our country does not have raw material mines for the production of other fertilizers. Those raw materials can be imported from abroad rather less than the cost of production by importing them in the country. For this reason, many major agricultural countries, including neighboring India, import these fertilizers from certain countries, which have mines and factories for these raw materials.

But this industry is also under pressure due to the gas crisis, lack of raw materials, Russia-Ukraine war, coronavirus. Many countries have restricted the export of fertilizers to increase their production. For example, China is the main exporter of DAP fertilizer in the world, but the country has banned the export of this fertilizer until June 2022.

According to media reports, Bangladesh has no shortage of urea till December, meaning there will be no crisis in the Aman season.” But Bangladesh needs to look beyond Aman and to the Boro, which is the biggest crop and requires 60% of fertilizer supplies. A deal was agreed by Moscow and Kyiv on Friday to allow Ukrainian grain exports, which had been halted since February. Approximately 22 million tons of grain from Ukraine that have been trapped in silos will now be sold on the international market.

Therefore, it is possible that similar agreements on the sale of fertilizer will also be reached, especially in light of the fact that the US government is secretly encouraging maritime and agricultural firms to purchase and transport more Russian fertilizer. However, even if Russian fertilizer is more widely accessible.

Muhammad Abdur Razzaque, the minister of agriculture, said to the media on July 20 that “It’s sad that local urea fertilizer production has ceased because of a gas constraint. But regardless of the cost, we have already started taking steps to gather urea from different sources.”

Fertilizers are one of Russia’s main exports to Bangladesh. Due to the sanctions imposed on Russia as a result of their invasion of Ukraine, Bangladesh must search elsewhere and pay more for its fertiliser needs. Belarus, a significant fertiliser supplier to Bangladesh, has also been negatively hit by the conflict.

Bangladesh always sells fertilizers to the farmers at subsidized prices, even though it is bought at a higher price from the world market.

Being an agricultural country, the government of Bangladesh has always been subsidizing agricultural equipment and materials. In the last century, the amount of that subsidy has increased a lot.

But it’s a news of hope that the Secretary of Agriculture ministry has ordered regular operation of mobile court to prevent artificial shortage of fertilizers or anyone can charge high prices. He said, the country has sufficient stock of fertilizers, there is no chance of shortage of fertilizers anywhere. So, he gave this instruction as part of regular monitoring.

On Sunday (August 21), the Secretary of Agriculture gave these instructions to the field level officers in a virtual meeting of ‘Overall Fertilizer Situation Review’ at the Secretariat. In the meeting, the Deputy Directors of the Directorate of Agricultural Extension of each district highlighted the overall situation of fertilisers.

The agriculture secretary said that the agriculture officials should take extra precautions if some people are deliberately trying to catch fish in the murky waters by spreading rumors. At the end of the discussion, the Secretary of Agriculture gave some instructions to the field officers to ensure proper distribution and sale of fertilizers.

He said that monitoring should be strengthened up to the union level to ensure that the dealers lift the allotted fertilizers on time. Some dealers are rationing the sale of fertilizers due to non-removal of allotted fertilizers on time which is totally illegal. As a result, a kind of artificial fear is created among the farmers at the field level. Fertilizer should not be sold without a receipt. Fertilizer price list should be displayed digitally or digitally in dealers’ and retailers’ shops. The secretary also said to confirm the arrival of fertilizer by visiting the dealer’s warehouse.

Apart from this, the agriculture department will maintain close contact with the district administration and upazila administration and should conduct regular mobile courts. Any information or news of sale of fertilizers at higher prices should be reported immediately and disciplinary action should be taken against the concerned dealers.

At the upazila level, under the chairmanship of the upazila executive officer, the upazila agriculture officer, police officers and dealers should be informed about the adequacy of fertilizers including farmers, public representatives and journalists.

According to media reports, it was informed in the meeting that there is sufficient stock of all kinds of fertilizers in the country against the demand. At present (August 21) stock of urea fertilizer is 6 lakh 49 thousand metric tons, TSP 3 lakh 94 thousand tons, DAP 7 lakh 36 thousand tons, MOP 2 lakh 73 thousand tons. Against the current stock of fertilizers, demand for fertilizers in Amon season (from August to October) is 6 lakh 19 thousand tons of urea, 1 lakh 19 thousand tons of TSP, 2 lakh 25 thousand tons of DAP, 1 lakh 37 thousand tons of MOP.

The current stock of fertilizer is higher than the same period last year. At this time last year, the stock of urea fertilizer was 6 lakh 06 thousand metric tons, TSP 2 lakh 27 thousand tons, DAP 5 lakh 56 thousand tons and MOP 1 lakh 96 thousand tons.

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By: This article is written by Mehjabin Bhanu, an independent freelance writer and researcher. She is a female school teacher in Bangladesh and a social worker.

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