Fertilizer shortage puts Nepal on the verge of food crisis
Kathmandu, Jun 14 (EFE).- Nepal is beginning to experience a food crisis triggered by a dramatic rise in prices of fertilizers and a global shortage – with Russia and Ukraine being major exporters – which could result in massive losses to the farmers of the Himalayan country.
“There is no fertilizer. I have been making several rounds for weeks at a depot that sells chemical fertilizer at subsidized rates. The depot is empty. If fertilizer is not provided on time, I won’t be able to transplant rice. I am worried of losing production this year,” a farmer in eastern Nepal, Gajendra Bhattarai, told EFE.
The early onset of monsoon rains, which arrived a week ahead of time in the area where Bhattarai works, allowed thousands of Nepali peasants to began rice transplanting early.
In Nepal, rice is planted between early June and mid-August depending on the rains, Bhattarai said.
Farmers of the country – which imports chemical fertilizer worth $180 million every year and largely depends on imported products – require government subsidies to be able to purchase these key components.
According to the department of agriculture, rice contributes around 40 percent of the calorie intake of food, and accounts for 7 percent of GDP, making local production a key factor.
But “as most of the tenders got cancelled due to the cost factor following Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, the global contractors were not able to supply the farm’s vital nutrients,” EFE was told by Pankaj Joshi, the deputy general manager of the Salt Trading Corporation, a state company that sells subsidized fertilizers.
The annual demand of chemical fertilizers in the country stands at around 600,000 tons, out of which 200,000 tons are required during the rice planting season spread over three months.
“We are not able to supply the fertilizer as per the farmers’ demand. The Russian-Ukraine war has increased the prices of chemical fertilizer by four times,” the official admitted.
Nepal used to purchase urea at $390 per ton from the global market until last year, but the price has now shot up to $1,025 per ton.
Similarly, the price of di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) stood at $375 per ton until last year, but now it costs $1,125 per ton, Joshi said.
The parliament of Nepal on Monday urged the government to supply chemical fertilizers to the farmers by any means, after the opposition presented an emergency motion of public importance demanding that the house take the issue seriously.
“Many farmers are crossing the border to smuggle fertilizer from India. The government’s warehouses are empty ahead of the rice transplanting period,” lawmaker Ganga Chaudhary told the Parliament, warning of an impending disaster.
Prakash Kumar Sanjel, the spokesperson for the ministry of agriculture and livestock development, told EFE that Kathmandu had recently signed an agreement with the government of India for the latter to supply fertilizers to Nepal.
“The Indian government has assured us to provide 90,000 tons of fertilizer to mitigate the immediate crisis. We are expecting that India will send the fertilizer by mid-July,” he said.
According to a report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, higher energy costs, trade restrictions and a loss of fertilizer supply from the Russian Federation and Belarus have led to fertilizer prices rising even faster than food prices.
“If the war continues and high prices of grain and fertilizers persist into the next planting season, food availability will be reduced at the worst possible time, and the present crisis in corn, wheat and vegetable oil could extend to other staples, affecting billions more people,” it warned. EFE