Farmers face urea fertiliser shortage during Rabi season in Rajasthan

Farmers face urea fertiliser shortage during Rabi season in Rajasthan

Farmers face urea fertiliser shortage during Rabi season in Rajasthan

Farmers wait their turn to collect fertilisers at Rawatsar in Hanumangarh district, Rajasthan. (Picture credit - Rakesh Joshi)

The state government remained at loggerheads with the Centre over the procurement and distribution of urea to agricultural districts, while farmers struggled through the sowing season of winter crops with inadequate fertiliser supply.

Hanumangarh: In the desert state of Rajasthan, farmers have been reeling under an acute urea fertiliser shortage for sowing Rabi crops. Like previous years, they have had to hold dharnas and demonstrations demanding that urea be made available across the state. Amar Singh Jakhar, a farmer from Pallu village in Hanumangarh district, said, "Earlier there was a shortage of urea for mustard, and then for wheat. Despite standing in long queues the whole day, farmers have to return empty-handed, while black marketers are profiting from our desperation."

Even though the Agriculture Department claims to have enough fertiliser, the crisis has spread across all agriculture-dominated districts. The irrigation for the mustard crop, which began in the second week of October, and wheat in December precipitated the need for urea. Also, widespread rainfall in the first week of January has increased urea requirements for the crops. The disparity in supply and demand has left farmers with neither DAP (Diammonium Phosphate) nor urea. While the state government has made social distancing mandatory due to the surge in Covid cases, hundreds of farmers thronged long, crowded queues in pursuit of fertiliser. Widespread agitations by protesting farmers caused several logjams while the police struggled to maintain peace and order.

Mithu Singh, a farmer of Haripura village in Sangaria, said that the government claimed to work in the interest of farmers, but in the present climate, farmers were made scavengers. Farmer Makhan Singh questioned why the government did not make prior arrangements to supply fertilisers on time. Pratap Singh Suda, District President of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, told 101Reporters, "Urea is needed till 15th of February. A lack of timely supply and rampant corruption are significant reasons behind the scarcity. Fertilisers should rightfully belong to the farmers, but black markets are stealing from them. We demanded that the Agriculture Department give the details of fertiliser allocation and distribution, but they refused."

A letter to the PM — accusations and counter-allegations

The severity of the fertiliser crisis became conspicuous on December 10, 2021, when Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to provide adequate urea fertiliser to the farmers of the state on time.

A long queue of farmers waiting to collect manure at Anupgarh in Sriganganagar district, Rajasthan (Picture credit - Jawahar Bhaskar)

Gehlot pointed out in the letter that the Government of India accepted the demand of 8 lakh metric tonnes of urea for Rajasthan in October and November 2021, but only 5.52 lakh metric tonnes were supplied, resulting in a shortage of 2.48 metric tonnes. Typically 90 to 95 lakh hectare area is sown during Rabi season in the state, which requires 13.50 lakh metric tonnes of manure. Due to good rainfall at the end of September this year, mustard and gram have been sown in more areas, estimated to be one crore hectares. The average mustard area in the state was 27 lakh hectares, which is expected to increase to 33 lakh hectares this year. Due to the short supply of DAP fertiliser to the state during Rabi sowing, farmers used single super phosphate and urea as alternatives. The estimated demand for urea in the state is expected to increase from 13.50 lakh metric tonnes to 14.50 lakh metric tonnes.  

While the Chief Minister blamed the shortage of fertilisers on the central government, BJP leaders blamed the Gehlot government. Sriganganagar MP, Nihalchand Meghwal, former Union Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilizers in the Modi government, said, "The state government did not demand fertilisers on time. The government should send the demand every year to the Centre according to the requirement of Kharif and Rabi crops, but they make claims every month, which is not possible to fulfil at times." Nihalchand proclaimed that the state government's muddled approach and mismanagement were responsible for the crisis, and had they made arrangements for smooth distribution, farmers would not have been forced to stand in queues, and there would not be a thriving illegal market for fertilisers.

Alternative fertiliser compounds and other government interventions

Hanumangarh and Sriganganagar districts have witnessed numerous scuffles over urea. Former Joint Director of Agriculture Department, VS Nain, told 101Reporters, "Previously in these districts, farmers used cow dung as manure for crops, but they gradually turned away from it due to the greed for more production. When cow dung manure was abandoned, the use of chemical fertilisers increased. Now farmers are using excessive urea in the fields against the advice of the Agriculture Department. The supply of manure is similarly less compared to the requirement every year. Applying more fertiliser than necessary in the fields leads to a further shortage. It is worth mentioning that a large chunk of the total requirement of fertilisers in the state is consumed only in Hanumangarh and Sri Ganganagar districts as wheat crop is primarily sown here."

Farmers block the road at Bhadra in Hanumangarh, demanding urea fertilisers (Picture credit - Tarachand Sharma)

Laxmanram Jat, Deputy Director (Fertilisers) at the Jaipur Headquarters of the Agriculture Department, told this correspondent, "In the initial months, we did not get enough supply from the Central Government, which created the crisis. We had demanded 11 lakh 50 thousand metric tonnes of urea from the Centre for Rabi. Against which we have received 11 lakh 47 thousand metric tonnes till the end of December. Supply was short in October-November." On the contrary, Rampal Jat disputed, "The severe crisis in all the state districts is because of the nonexistence of fair and equitable distribution of urea. Authorised dealers create artificial scarcity by hiding urea stock, forcing farmers to buy fertilisers in black markets. All this is happening with the connivance of the Agriculture Department."

Laxmanram Jat also said, "The Centre has complete control over the situation. They should get the supplies done at the right time. Farmers should also use nano urea as an alternative to granular urea." Pratap Singh Suda explained that fertiliser distribution was done through village cooperative societies about six or seven years ago. If a farmer took a loan of Rs 50,000 from a cooperative society, he was required to spend ​​Rs 15,000 from the loan for DAP and urea. This guaranteed fertiliser for the farmer. However, with the closure of this system, farmers have to haggle for manure and contend with black markets. Rampal Jat concluded, "Unless the government strictly monitors the distribution of fertilisers and puts a stop to the dealer-officer alliance, the situation will remain the same. We have met the Chief Minister and given him a memorandum regarding this."

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