Patna: Rajeshwar Mandal and Surajdeo Yadav are extremely worried as the sowing of maize, wheat, pulses and mustard has been delayed due to the acute shortage of diammonium phosphate (DAP). The marginal farmers of the flood-hit Seemanchal-Koshi region of Bihar fear that the delay in sowing the Rabi crops will affect their quality and production.
Mandal and Yadav are among the thousands of Rabi farmers across Bihar who are struggling with the shortage of DAP. “My land is ready for sowing since last week but I am unable to sow maize and wheat seeds without DAP. I am not alone; most of the farmers in my village and the neighbouring villages are eagerly waiting for the supply of DAP, an essential requirement at the time of sowing Rabi crops,” Mandal, a resident of Baisi, in Purnea district, told Newsclick.
According to Mandal, the government failed to learn any lesson from the fertiliser crisis during the Kharif season. “After the urea shortage during the Kharif season, the scarcity of DAP is a big failure of the government. It should have ensured adequate supply of DAP,” he said.
Yadav said that it is unfortunate that farmers are wasting hours daily in search of DAP but hardly get it. “We should have either sowed Rabi crops or have been busy sowing them instead of struggling for DAP,” Yadav, a resident of Rajni Panchayat, in Murliganj, Madhepura district, said.
Mahendra Yadav, convener, Koshi Nav Nirman Manch, told Newsclick that maize cultivation during winters is the lifeline of thousands of farmers in the Seemanchal-Koshi region, which is known as a hub of cultivation of the cereal. As per official data, maize is the primary crop for farmers in Purnea, Kishanganj, Araria and Katihar districts of Seemanchal, and Madhepura, Saharsa, Supaul and Khagaria districts of Koshi. Maize is also cultivated on a large scale in Bhagalpur and Samastipur districts.
Farmers had protested the DAP shortage at several places in the state in the last few days demanding an adequate supply of the fertiliser. Men and women in large numbers queue up outside fertiliser shops late at night but only a few lucky ones get DAP.
Bihar agriculture minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Amrendra Pratap Singh had early this week demanded from the Centre supply of 1 lakh metric tonnes (MT) of DAP within a week while admitting that the supply of the fertiliser is inadequate in view of the high demand. Farmers refused to listen to Singh’s advice of using a Single Super Phosphate (SSP) instead of DAP.
According to state agriculture department officials, 4 lakh MT of DAP is required for the Rabi season. Two months ago, the department wrote to the Centre asking for supply of DAP and other fertilisers ahead of the beginning of Rabi season. “After an assessment of the requirement of DAP and other fertilisers, the department had asked the Centre to ensure timely supply to avoid shortage.”
As per the department’s assessment, 12 lakh MT of urea, 1.5 lakh tonnes of MOP (muriate of potash), 2 lakh MT of complex (mixture of nitrogen, phosphate and potash) and 1.25 lakh MT of SSP are also required.
A senior official told Newsclick that the apathy of the Central government is responsible for the shortage of DAP. “DAP is supplied by the Central government to states. If there is a problem in supply, this is bound to create crisis. Farmers in Bihar are desperate for DAP thanks to the short supply by the Centre,” he said.
After repeated floods and excess rainfall destroyed standing Kharif crops in thousands of hectares, farmers had to struggle with the shortage of fertilisers and a soaring black market. Left with no option, they were forced to purchase a few sacks of fertilisers at higher prices in the black market to salvage their remaining crops.
The DAP crisis, which started way back in July, has worsened, exposing the lack of seriousness of the Nitish Kumar-led government in ensuring the supply of fertilisers from the Central quota. The frustrating situation has forced farmers to stage protests, block roads, gherao government officials and even clash with the police in some places.
Agriculture is the backbone of Bihar’s economy employing 81% of the workforce and generating nearly 42% of the state’s gross domestic product, according to state government figures. About 76% of Bihar’s population is dependent on agriculture for livelihood.