Short supply midst surge in demand for fertiliser to hit food production

Friday, 24 June 2011 03:15 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Shezna Shums

A surge in demand for fertiliser has caused a shortage of fertiliser in some parts of the island. This follows demands by vegetable cultivators for more fertiliser consequent to the government’s decision to sell a 50 kg bag of fertiliser at Rs. 1,200 as opposed to the earlier price of Rs.3, 500 to Rs.4, 000.

Following disclosures made by Government Parliamentarian Ven. Athuraliye Ratana Thera the media had reported that 11 containers of pesticides allegedly containing a component of arsenic were being held in the port.

Meanwhile Director, National Fertiliser Secretariat Ranjan Dharmawardena has stated that the shortage was an artificial scarcity created due to some vegetable farmers in Nuwara Eliya wanting to purchase more fertiliser than what was required for their crops. There were also reports of a fertiliser shortage in the Ampara District due to miscalculating the amount of fertiliser needed.

“There were little incidents like this where there were shortages, but it is not a big problem,” said the Director. Dharmawardena noted that this was the end of the Yala season and 80 percent of the fertiliser requirement had already been fulfilled.

It was also said that the fertiliser companies had been advised to hold buffer stock of fertiliser to meet contingencies such as problems in importing fertiliser or a sudden increase in the demand for fertiliser.

Providing fertiliser at a subsidised price means the government will be bearing the cost of the subsidy.

All straight chemical fertiliser types are considered for the new fertiliser subsidy programme in addition to Urea, Triple Super Phosphate and Muriate of Potash, for which the Government has made an allocation of Rs 2,500 million per year. Hence the total annual financial commitment on fertiliser subsidy will be in excess of Rs. 52,000 million.

Meanwhile the President in his address to the farming leaders yesterday (23 June) has said that when he took over government there were two major issues to address; one was the war and the other was the fertiliser problem. He had stated that the war was now over and that the second issue of subsidised fertiliser being available to all was being tackled.

The President had noted that Sri Lanka was the only country to provide a subsidy on fertiliser for the last 6 ½ years and that Sri Lanka was not affected by the global food crises.

Director/Chief Executive Officer Hayleys Agro Fertiliser (Pvt) Ltd., Nandalal Perera said that as the Government had made the decision of providing the fertiliser subsidy to all crop growers suddenly, they had not had enough time to plan out their stocks.

“There is a temporary shortage but we have placed orders and by the 26 or 27 of this month our shipments will be available,” said Perera.

He further explained that as they had placed their orders, the global price of fertiliser had shot up and that the suppliers were having problems in delivering on time.

The other factor was that congestion at the port has seen some ships bypassing Colombo and thereby causing further shortage of fertiliser.

Nevertheless they hope to have adequate stocks of fertiliser by the end of this month.  He claimed that the anticipated demand for fertiliser following the government’s plans to make available subsidised fertiliser to all crop growers had been taken into consideration by them in ordering stocks.

Chairman, Ceylon Fertiliser Company Ltd., Budhika Madiyahewa said that they were seeing an increase in demand for fertiliser from vegetable and coconut growers, while the demand for fertiliser by paddy cultivators had remained the same. However, his company had foreseen the Government’s decision to provide fertiliser at a subsidised price and had ordered enough stocks to meet the projected demand.

General Manager Marketing CIC Agri Business (Pvt) Ltd., Ranjith Abeysinghe said that they too had adequate stocks to meet the increased demand for fertiliser. He said that there was an additional demand for fertiliser from vegetable cultivators but expected the situation to normalise within the next two months.

With the Government’s new fertiliser subsidy scheme  to motivate the cultivation of diverse crops including tea, rubber, coconut, vegetables and fruits the price of a 50 kg bag of fertiliser is now priced at Rs. 1,200 as opposed to Rs. Rs 3,500 to Rs 4,000 earlier.

The paddy fertiliser subsidy programme will continue unchanged and paddy farmers are entitled to obtain 50 kg of Urea, Triple Super Phosphate and Muriate of Potash fertiliser bag at Rs. 350 as before.