UP Elections: Fertiliser Shortage, ‘Hollow’ Promise on MSP Likely to Erode BJP’s Support Base
Representational use only.Image Courtesy: The Financial Express
Mathura, Agra, Farrukhabad, Etah, Etawah, Kannuaj (Uttar Pradesh): Even as the Centre continue to claim that there is no shortage of fertilisers and record procurement of food grains at minimum support price (MSP), the ongoing crippling crisis of DAP (di-ammonium Phosphate), NKP (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium) and urea, and "empty" promises regarding the MSP are posing a threat of an erosion of support base of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the agrarian belts of the state.
Farmers standing in long queues at Kisan Seva Kendra (government-run fertiliser centres), waiting for their turn to get fertilisers on producing Adhaar cards, are a common sight in almost entire Uttar Pradesh. Visit any village in the hinterland of the state, the peasants, while describing their plight, will mention the issues of fertiliser crisis and no procurement on MSP for sure, claiming that they had to wait for hours and even days for a sack of DAP and urea, which is extremely essential for their ongoing Rabi crops (wheat, mustard, potatoes, pink lentil (masoor dal), etc.
They will complain that they are getting the fertilisers at elevated prices in the black market. According to them, the DAP, which should cost them Rs 1,250/bag, is being sold at Rs 1,500 a bag. The NKP, which costs Rs 1,800/bag, is being sold at Rs 2,000. And the urea is available at Rs 330/bag against its controlled price of Rs 270/bag.
Rajendra Singh owns three bighas (around 1.85 acres) of land at Rajkot village in western Uttar Pradesh's Etah district. He stood at his nearest fertiliser centre for two days in a long queue to purchase DAP and urea at the onset of the Rabi crop season but had to return empty-handed. After failing to get the fertilisers, he had to tilt his wallet more to buy the DAP at Rs 1,500 against the government price of Rs 1,250/bag and urea at Rs 330 instead of Rs 270.
"Because of the acute shortage of the fertilisers, I sowed wheat late by two months. The shortage appears to be artificial as the government-run fertiliser centres run short of the fertilisers supply, while they are available in the open market in plenty," he told NewsClick.
The cultivation of the rabi crops needs DAP and NPK fertilisers. Especially, the DAP is most vital for preparing the lands for sowing.
Himmat Singh Katheria, a 40-year-old farmer, said he finally managed to procure the DAP after five days of standing in queues after travelling kilometres to another village.
“DAP aur urea ke liye line men lagne parte hain, phir bhi khad nahin milti. Paanch dinon baad mujhe khaad mil paya, woh bhi dusre centre ja kar (Despite standing in queues, we don't get DAP and urea. I managed to get the fertilisers after five days and that too at a different centre away from the nearest one)," said the resident of Akbarpur Aunchha in Mainpuri district's Kuraoli block.
He said many small farmers had to sow wheat without fertilisers. "We cannot afford to wait indefinitely for the government outlets to supply the fertilisers. Procuring it from the open market is also not easy as they are costlier there. The DAP is being sold to us at Rs 1,500/sack and urea at Rs 330 in the open market," he complained.
Charan Singh, a farmer from Mahuti in Mainpuri who owns five acres of land, had just returned with two bags of DAP. He said he stood in the queue at the nearest Kisan Seva Kendra at 5 am but got the fertiliser late in the evening.
He got the fertiliser in the second attempt. The farmer, who recently suffered a cardiac arrest, had stood in the queue a day before but collapsed after he complained of severe chest pain. As he fell, a stampede like situation arose. His son was allegedly caught by the police and thrashed on account of creating commotion there. The father-son duo returned that day.
"We went to another centre at Karshal the next day early in the morning and managed to get two sacks of the DAP in the evening," he narrated.
Milap Singh, who has 14 acres of land at Kutukpur Nasirpur village in Mainpuri's Karhal block, had to procure 20 bags of the fertiliser from the black market at Rs 1,700/sack after he failed to get it from the government-run Centre.
"Because of the unavailability of the fertiliser, sowing of the wheat crop got delayed by 17 days," he added.
Satendra Singh from Balampur village at Ghiror block in Mainpuri district said he had grown paddy on 2.1 acres, but the yield fell to 20 quintals because he could not get the fertilisers in time.
He is under the debt burden of Rs 50,000, which he had borrowed in May last year. He cannot pay it because he suffered a huge loss by selling the produce at Rs 1,100/quintal.
Several farmers allegedly died by suicide as they could not get fertilisers in time for their lands. There is utter despair in villages. Farmers staged agitations and faced lathi charges because of DAP, NPK and urea shortage.
The government claimed that Uttar Pradesh has no shortage of fertilisers. It said three lakh metric tonnes of DAP was supplied in 11 days against the demand of six lakh metric tonnes. "The rest was supplied later. So, there is no shortage of fertiliser in the state. Farmers should not lend their ears to rumours and refrain from hoarding it," Mansukh Mandaviya, Minister of Health and Family Welfare and Chemicals and Fertilisers, told NewsClick.
He said incessant and unexpected rains in November and December last year had caused a shortage for some time, but soon it was taken care of.
"The unexpected rains in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh destroyed the wheat sown with the onset of the Rabi season, forcing farmers to the crop again. It caused a sudden rise in the demand for the DAP as farmers needed it for the second time. It took a little time to send the supplies to address the sudden rise in the demand for the DAP. We responded to the situation effectively and took care of the temporary shortage," he added.
DEPLETION IN DAP STOCKS
Statistics obtained from the Investment Information and Credit Rating Agency (ICRA) contradicts the government's claim. It reveals that the country's DAP stocks are witnessing a decrease every year that might have caused the shortage.
The country had 4.8 million metric tonnes of DAP in store in September 2018. It went up to 6.6 million metric tonnes in 2019. The stocks came down to 5 million metric tonnes in 2020. And it reached only 2.1 million metric tonnes in September 2021.
At least 50%, as per the Ministry of Fertilisers and Chemicals, of the DAP and other fertilisers, are produced in the country. But necessary components for their manufacturings are imported from abroad.
The price of these fertilisers, too, has witnessed a rise. One metric tonne of DAP, suggests an August bulletin of the Ministry of Fertilisers and Chemicals, was priced at US$ 336 (Rs 25,155) in 2020. The price rose to US$ 641/metric tonne (Rs 47,990).
Similarly, the price of urea hiked to US$ 513/metric tonne (Rs 38,407) last year from US$ 261 (Rs 19,543) the corresponding year.
MSP A DISTANT DREAM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's assurance (given in Rajya Sabha on February 8, 2021) that "MSP tha, MSP hai aur MSP rahega (MSP was there, MSP is there, MSP will remain in the future)" proved to be "hollow" and mere a "lip service", said peasants this correspondent spoke to in several districts of the poll-bound state.
They said they had to sell paddy at a price ranging between Rs 1,100 to Rs 1,650/quintal, while its MSP for its common variety was Rs 1,940/quintal for the 2021-22 crop year (July-June).
Gore Lal, a farmer from Ramnagar village in Etah district, said he had grown paddy on four acres of land, and the yield stood at 60 quintals. He sold 30 quintals for Rs 1,650/quintal and suffered a loss of Rs 10,000.
"MSP is a distant dream for us as the Agricultural Produce & Livestock Market Committee (APMC) does very low procurement, and small farmers like us are unable to sell our farm produces there," he said.
Asked about the Prime Minister's assurance that MSP will be there, he said, "It was nothing more than a lip service."
He has borrowed a sum of Rs 1.25 lakh from the Kisan Credit Card (KCC) and failed to return the sum because of the loss he suffered. He has now sown mustard. "If stray cattle do not destroy the crop and I get good rates, then only I will be able to repay the loan. If it did not happen, I would have no option but to sell the land as the compound interest on the borrowed sum is mounting," he added, describing his plight.
Several others have similar stories to narrate.
Raj Kumar Gupta from Nagla Naya village at Mainpuri's Barnahal block grew paddy on two acres of land. The yield stood at 15 quintals. He sold the farm produce in the private mandi at Rs 1,620/quintal. He said there was no profit, no loss.
The farmer, who owes a KCC loan of Rs 2.5 lakh, has been declared a defaulter as he has been unable to repay it for the past 10 years. He said he had not got even a single instalment of the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi under which Rs 6,000 is given to farmers in a year in three instalments.
The poor farmer, who had voted for the BJP in the last Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, is now working with a cloth shop as a salesman where he gets Rs 300/day.
He has sown wheat and mustard this season, 50% of which has been destroyed by the hail storm at the beginning of the ongoing Rabi season.
Satendra Singh said the MSP of mustard last year was Rs 5,500/quintal, but farmers in his village could sell it at Rs 3,700/quintal.
Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.