The plantation sector in Kerala has expressed concern over the non-availability of fertiliser, saying it will hit hard several crops in the State. Besides, pineapple production could also be affected. But the government officials say retailers have surplus stocks and they should be more diligent in updating their inventories.

The shortage of urea and MOP in tea gardens is severe and will have a cascading effect on production. This will have an adverse impact on the industry, which is already reeling under financial stress.

A top executive in a tea manufacturing company told BusinessLine , “The unavailability is affecting the entire tea sector hard, forcing the industry to desist from applying the required nutrients for plants. This will, in turn, affect crop production and lead to lesser output from the plants. Besides, the emerging situation will lead to higher production cost, thereby incurring losses to producing companies.”

Urgent steps needed

The tea sector, he said, requires an average of around 200/kg of nitrogen and an almost equal quantity of potassium per hectare in a year for plant nutrients, but the current availability is around 100-120 kg. The government should take urgent steps to ensure adequate availability considering its impact on the viability of the tea industry.

For rubber, Santosh Kumar, Executive Director, Harrisons Malayalam Ltd, said the shortage is hindering the application of required quantities of manure this season. Though fertiliser requirements in rubber are far lower than other crops, availability has been an issue. For large growers and plantations, there has been confusion on the norms of availability along with serious issues of shortage, leading to limited application.

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Planters have taken up the issue with the government and some relaxations have been forthcoming. “But I do not think it will be possible to catch up keeping in mind the narrow window of time available this year,” he said.

Average rubber plantation applies manure based on soil and foliar analysis and the figures may vary between 200-300 kg per hectare. Going by this, only 40 hectares could be applied per month. For the rubber sector, this is a small area. The matter was taken up at all levels and the limit was increased.

However, he added that the problem is stemming from the shortage of urea and the non-availability of MOP and DAP. The quantities are not adequate and it is expected that many estates will not be able to apply the required quantities this season.

The fertiliser shortage has had a marginal impact on the cardamom sector. As most farmers use complex fertilisers there has been some shortage. However, due to the continuous rains, fertiliser uptake remains minimal. The shortage will be felt when the weather clears up in the next 10 days, SB Prabhakar, a planter in Idukki said.

The shortage has affected timely manure application in pineapple farms that requires 18,000 tonnes of urea and 13,000 tonnes of potash in 45,000 acres on a yearly basis. The availability has now reduced to 50-60 per cent. “A shift in complex fertiliser will be costlier and affect the quality and quantity of the fruit,” said Baby John, president, Pineapple Growers Association Keralam.

Import woes

A senior official in the Directorate of Agriculture, Kerala admitted that there is a shortage in the State on account of a global crisis for imported chemical fertiliser into the country and the government is trying to resolve it.

For instance, the official said the requirement of urea for October was 20,800 tonnes and the allocation was only 15,770 tonnes, but the supplied quantity was 10,414 tonnes. The MOP demand was 12,700 tonnes with an allocation of 7,150 tonnes and the supply was 4,840 tonnes.

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In November, the urea demand was 10,196 tonnes and the allotted quantity was 6300 tonnes. However, the State has not received a single quantity so far but was expecting 1,000 tonnes in a couple of days. Not a single quantity of MOP was supplied so far in this month against a demand of 11,678 tonnes and the allocation of 9,000 tonnes.

As far as DAP is concerned, the official said the State is witnessing the shortage for a long time. The supply last month was only 541 tonnes against the demand of 1,990 tonnes and the allocation of 1,840 tonnes.

The official cited the surplus stock position among the retailers in the fertiliser system as a reason for lower allotment from the Centre and requested retailers to be more diligent in updating their stock position in resolving the crisis.