Kathmandu, June 29 (EFE).- Tens of thousands of farmers in Nepal Wednesday splashed mud and water at one another to celebrate National Paddy Day, which ushers in the annual rice planting season.
People traditionally eat yogurt and beaten rice to mark the day.
This year, however, the celebration was marked by gloom as farmers faced the worst shortage of chemical fertilizers.
The crisis stemmed from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which effectively cut off nearly a fifth of the world’s nutrient exports.
Yam Baral from Jhapa, one of the key paddy-producing districts in eastern Nepal, told Efe that he was forced to transplant paddy without using chemical fertilizers.
“We do not have a grain of fertiliser at the peak of the transplanting period,” he said.
The country, according to Baral, received a lot of rain during this monsoon, but he still feared a meager harvest.
“We cannot imagine increasing production without fertiliser. The lack of nitrogen means plants won’t grow,” said Baral.
Agriculture is the mainstay of Nepal’s economy, employing around 60 percent of the total workforce and contributing 25 percent to the gross domestic product.
Prakash Kumar Sanjel, the spokesperson for the Agriculture Ministry, acknowledged that there was a shortage of urea.
“We have requested our southern neighbour India to provide a few quantities to avoid the crisis,” he said. “The Indian government is positive and we are expecting deliveries within a few weeks.”
On February 28, Nepal signed a government-to-government deal with India to procure chemical fertilizers for five years.
The deal bypasses the lengthy global tendering process to avoid scarcities during the main planting season.
Typically, the tendering procedure takes six months to import chemical fertilizers.
According to Sanjel, India will fulfill at least 30 percent of Nepal’s yearly fertilizer needs through this agreement. Every year, the Himalayan nation requires 700,000 tonnes of chemical fertilizer.
The spokesperson claimed that the cost of fertilizer has been rising for more than a year.
Many suppliers backed out of their agreements due to the three- to four-fold increase in the price of fertilizers.
After an increase of 80 percent last year, chemical fertilizer costs have increased by over 30 percent since the beginning of 2022, per a World Bank report.
The report said several factors, including rising ingredient costs, supply interruptions brought on by sanctions (against Belarus and Russia), and Chinese export limitations, are to blame for price increases.
While phosphate and potash prices are edging closer to their 2008 heights, urea prices have surpassed those peaks.