Taking on global fertiliser companies for raising prices of the crop nutrients, India’s Fertiliser Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Wednesday criticised their approach of profiteering at a time of crisis, particularly after the Russia-Ukraine war disrupted supplies.

In his inaugural address at the annual conference of the Fertiliser Association of India (FAI), Mandaviya said, “Following the outbreak of Covid-19, we supplied medicines to 150 countries. Had we wanted we could have dictated the price as medicines were not available. But we did not do that. We helped the world as it was a global crisis. We feel it is our responsibility to help in such crisis situation.

“But, whatever has happened to fertiliser (prices) following the Covid pandemic and the war is not right.” Global urea prices touched nearly $1,000/tonne in December 2021 from about $400 per tonne in April 2021 and di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) reached $945 per tonne in July 2022. Prices have recently softened.

Finding alternatives

“In the times to come, we would certainly choose a fair and frank partner, rather than tolerating cartelisation and manipulation,” Mandaviya said. He indicated the government’s resolve to find alternatives to chemical fertilisers.

The minister said he analysed the global price rise in fertilisers during the past year and found that it was not market driven. “It is not proper for any sector when a country or a company decides the price. It should always be determined by the market,” Mandaviya said. Though it could help the global fertiliser suppliers in the short run, it will be counter-productive in the long run since India will move towards alternate fertilisers, he added.

He said the government has brought various reforms and ensured that fertilisers are made available at affordable prices to farmers. “We have done this by increasing the amount of fertiliser subsidy from $11.29 billion for the pre-pandemic year 2019-20 to $17.50 billion for 2020-21 to $18.79 billion for 2021-22 and for the current year it is estimated to exceed $28.98 billion.”

As the world today faces severe challenges in the rising costs and availability of fertilisers, there is a dire need for India’s global partners to have reasonable and transparent mechanisms and take long-term views in dealing with issues of fertilisers in the larger interest of global food security, he said.

He said long-term agreements and MoUs will have an important role to play in making steady progress in sourcing fertilisers for the country.