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  • 24 December, 2022

  • 6 Min Read

Distorted use of fertilizers

Distorted use of fertilizers

  • According to the Department of Fertilisers, the sale of urea increased by 3.7% from April to October 2022 compared to the same period the previous year.

More on the news:

  • Issue: The incumbent government's two ambitious schemes — the Soil Health Card and mandatory neem-coating of urea — were intended to promote the balanced use of fertilizers.
  • Urea: Rather than weaning farmers away from urea, annual consumption of this nitrogenous fertiliser has increased from 30 to 35 million tonnes (mt) in the last five years.
  • DAP: Another fertiliser, di-ammonium phosphate (DAP), is experiencing a similar phenomenon of over-application.
  • Sales of all other fertilisers: Other fertiliser sales have declined, including complexes containing nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), and sulphur (S) in various proportions.

Unbalanced usage:

  • In other words, instead of applying a balanced mix of plant nutrients based on soil testing and crop requirements, Indian farmers are effectively applying only urea and DAP — both high-analysis fertilisers containing 46% N and P, respectively.


  • The effects of these - the current NPK ratio is approximately 13:5:1, as opposed to the ideal 4:2:1 - would eventually be seen in crop yields.
  • Plants, like humans, will respond poorly to excess nutrients if only one or two nutrients are provided.

Reasons for this disparity

Other fertilisers are being underpriced:

  • The government has set maximum retail prices for urea and DAP. It has established informal MRPs for NPKS complexes and potash muriate (MOP).
  • Other fertiliser prices are higher when compared to Urea and DAP. As a result, farmers have little incentive to purchase additional fertilisers.
  • The fact that DAP lacks K, S, and other macro and micro nutrients would be irrelevant to the vast majority of farmers.
  • Their choice of fertiliser is primarily determined by price.

Subsidies and political motivations:

  • Subsidy-induced market distortions cause urea underpricing (a historical phenomenon) and DAP underpricing (recent).
  • The low prices and high sales of these two fertilisers are due to large government subsidies.
  • Concerns about soil nutrient imbalances have clearly taken a back seat to electoral politics.

Supply-side constraints include:

  • India is facing a scarcity of fertilisers, particularly phosphatic and potassic nutrients.
  • The difficulties include securing supply from new sources, more expensive raw materials, and logistics.
  • The pandemic has had an impact on fertiliser production, import, and transportation worldwide.

Initiatives by the government to rationalise fertiliser use:

The Soil Health Card Scheme:

  • A soil health card informs farmers about the nutrient status of their soil and recommends the appropriate dosage of nutrients to be applied to improve soil health and fertility.
  • Objectives: Every two years, all farmers will receive soil health cards, which will serve as a foundation for addressing nutrient deficiencies in fertilisation practises.

Neem Coated Urea (NCU):

  • It is a fertiliser and an agricultural scheme supported by the Government of India to increase wheat and paddy growth.
  • Aside from increasing yield, Neem Coated Urea application has other benefits in paddy and wheat crops.
  • Farmers discovered that using Neem coated Urea in wheat crop reduced the incidence of white ants. This is due to the fragrance of Neem oil, which was released in the standing water upon dissolution, as well as the insecticidal properties of Neem.
  • The move will not only benefit the environment and farmers' livelihoods, but it will also reduce illegal urea diversion for industrial use.

‘One Nation, One Fertilizer’ scheme:

  • All fertiliser companies, State Trading Entities (STEs), and Fertiliser Marketing Entities (FMEs) will be required to use a single "Bharat" brand and logo under the PMBJP scheme.
  • The PMBJP logo and the new "Bharat" brand name will cover two-thirds of the front of the fertiliser packet.

Way Forward

  • The government should replace individual fertiliser product subsidies with a flat per-hectare cash transfer, perhaps twice a year.
  • Every farmer can open an e-wallet account and deposit this money before the kharif and rabi planting seasons.
  • The e-wallet may be used only for the purchase of fertilisers.
  • The government can maintain a stock of basic fertilisers, including urea and DAP, to ensure no untoward price rise even in a decontrol scenario.

Source: PIB

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