Amid high prices of fertilisers in the global market that have upset the government’s subsidy plan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has received support from some key farmer leaders such as Rakesh Tikait, Yogendra Yadav and Atul Anjan on his call to adopt natural/organic farming to save the soil.

This may help the government to manage the fertiliser availability in the current kharif season as sowing has started with the arrival of monsoon.

The government has estimated that fertiliser subsidy in this fiscal may increase to as high as ₹2.5-lakh crore against the Budget Estimate (BE) of ₹1.05-lakh crore. The fertiliser subsidy outgo was raised to ₹1.40-lakh crore in the revised estimate from ₹79,529.68 crore in BE during 2021-22. Even Modi recently had said that the subsidy was going to be more than ₹2-lakh crore this year. Last year, the Union government gave a subsidy of ₹1.60-lakh crore in fertilisers so that the farmers do not face any problem, he had said.

High prices

In the last two years, the prices of fertilisers in the global market have increased a lot after the Covid-19 pandemic. On top of that, the Russia-Ukraine war has aggravated the situation as it has not only limited the availability but also increased the prices manifold.

The global price of urea in April was $631/tonne — 66 per cent higher from year-ago and DAP was also 66 per cent higher at $924 whereas MoP surged 116 per cent to $590. Though prices of all these fertilisers have reportedly further increased in May, no Indian companies are entering into contract for DAP import above April level as they may not get government subsidy beyond that level and further increase in prices may cripple their sales.

Going organic

At a roundtable organised by web portal Rural Voice and Socrates Foundation in New Delhi on May 31, spokesman of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) Rakesh Tikait, while supporting organic and natural farming, said the country has to move towards “such a farming in which the use of fertilisers and water is less.” He said it was BKU, which for the first time, suggested Uttarakhand to be declared an organic State, much before Sikkim got that distinction. Tikait also said BKU has suggested Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh governments form a Bundelkhand Organic Board.

All India Kisan Sabha general secretary and senior CPI leader Atul Anjan said: “Chemical fertilisers may be harmful to the body but at the moment there is no alternative to them. But, organic farming has to be promoted by the government. It seems the government policy is influenced by fertiliser companies as the allocation to promote organic farming is very low.”

Yogendra Yadav of Jai Kisan Andolan said as there is no time left to do much for the kharif season, the government will have to take immediate measures. However, as a medium-term measure the fertiliser subsidies should be directly paid to farmers, instead of current practice of giving those to industries, he said adding without any conditions the assistance should be paid to actual farmers based on records. Yadav also favoured organic farming saying due to soil and water degradation it is time to come out of the Green Revolution mindset.

VM Singh of Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan said there is a need to gradually reduce the use of chemical fertilisers in irrigated areas. “Organics do not get priority in the policies of the government. How long will we be in the grip of imported fertilisers,” he asked and suggested urea to be sprayed directly into the fields after making a solution with water.

Other leaders who also favoured promotion of organic and natural farming include Rampal Jat of Kisan Mahapanchayat, Rajaram Tripathi of the Alliance of Indian Farmers’ Associations and Pramod Chaudhary of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh.

Pain points

However, Raju Shetti of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana had a different view point since he himself had tried organic sugarcane. “Unless there is higher return from organic products , the farmers will be at loss due to lower yield,” he said. Stating that organic farming can lead to a food crisis, Shetti cited his own experience and said sugarcane productivity was 30-35 tonnes per acre in organic method against 70 tonnes using chemical fertilisers whereas there was no buyer to lift those organically produced sugar at ₹70/kg.