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Bihar Farmers Face Fertiliser Shortage; State Demands Adequate Supply from Centre

Farmers have no option but to buy fertilisers at high rates in the black market.
Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Flickr

Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Flickr

Patna: With thousands of farmers, mostly marginal and small, in Bihar facing a shortage of urea and potash fertilisers, the state government has sought the Centre’s immediate intervention to ensure an adequate and timely supply. 

Unhappy over the shortage of fertilisers, which is likely to affect their Rabi crops, farmers have been protesting since last month. With designated dealer shops lacking adequate fertilisers and black marketing, farmers have no option but to buy them at high rates. 

“Farmers needed more fertilisers in December but the situation is pathetic. Farmers are not demanding it free and are ready to pay at government rates,” Laliteshwar Choudhary, a farmer from Lalganj, Vaishali, told Newsclick. 

Choudhary’s dismay was echoed by Chunnu Sharma of Paliganj, Patna. “The year ended with the shortage of fertilisers despite the Centre’s tall claims of doubling farmers’ incomes. Farmers have been left in the lurch to struggle for fertilisers and minimum support prices for their produce,” he said. 

Choudhary and Sharma, both marginal farmers, had to purchase fertilisers from the black market at high prices. At the time of sowing of Rabi crops in late November and early December, they struggled to get urea and diammonium phosphate (DAP). They pointed out that farmers need urea at the time of irrigation of wheat in January and also potash. 

Bihar agriculture minister Kumar Sarvajeet has written a letter to the Centre to ensure an adequate supply of fertilisers. “Farmers have been facing a shortage of fertilisers as the Central government has failed to supply an adequate amount. The Centre is directly responsible for the shortage,” Sarvajeet told Newsclick.

“If farmers don’t get fertilisers on time during the ongoing Rabi season, it is bound to affect crops. What is the use of supplying fertilisers when farmers hardly need them? But the Central government will claim that it has provided adequate fertilisers to the state,” he added.

According to state agriculture department data, there was 19% shortage of urea and 35% of muriate of potash (MOP) till December 30. Bihar had received 6.37502 lakh tonnes of urea against the requirement of 7.90000 lakh tonnes. Similarly, 6.1980 lakh tonnes of MOP was received against the sanctioned quota of 11.6300 lakh tonnes. 

Satish Yadav, a small farmer from Mohanpur block, Gaya, couldn’t afford fertilisers from the black market, which badly hit his wheat and pulses. “Unlike well-off farmers, a poor farmer like me with a small land suffered heavily due to the shortage of fertilisers. I cannot invest extra by purchasing fertilisers at a higher rate from the black market,” he told Newsclick. 

Yadav said that several farmers purchased a sack of urea for Rs 500-Rs 600, which is about Rs 200-Rs 300 more than the fixed government rate of Rs 266. “My Rabi produce will be less than them.” 

According to scientists at Bihar Agriculture University (Bhagalpur) and Dr Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University (Samastipur), the use of fertilisers in Bihar has been increasing with farmers desperate to produce more. Bihar is one of the leading paddy-producing states. In 2019-20, the state was the biggest user of fertilisers at about 245.25 kg/hectare.

According to state government figures, agriculture is the backbone of Bihar’s economy and employs 81% of the workforce and generates nearly 42% of the state’s gross domestic product. About 76% of Bihar’s population is dependent on agriculture for livelihood.

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