Urea paucity worry may return to north India; 1 mn tonne stuck in ports

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A paucity of urea is worrying farmers for the past few days in several states in north India and the situation — temporarily normal in some places — could aggravate. About 1.6 million tonnes of imported fertilisers, of which 0.9-1 million tonnes is urea, is stuck in ports for want of transportation as of December 24, said sources.

This could go up, as more incoming consignments are on their way and the old stock is yet to be cleared. The affected states are Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Punjab.

According to industry estimates, about 4.5 million tonnes of urea is stuck with retailers as recorded by point-of-sale devices. Some of this might be on account of delayed entry by the retailers after formal sale.

The railway ministry as well as the department of fertilisers and chemicals has, however, denied there was any shortage of rakes. The government claims there is no problem for transporting fertilisers.

Data accessed by Business Standard shows there has been 472 more rakes of fertilisers was transported during 2018, compared to last year. The period under consideration is part of rabi of 2017-18, kharif in 2018, and two months of rabi in 2018-19.

A railway ministry official said the railways has ensured there was no shortage in the number of rakes for coal or fertilier sectors in the past two months.

“The railways is not at fault. It has already delivered the products. The issue is distribution at the local level in these states. Fertilisers being an essential commodity requires timely movement (because of the short duration of peak consumption months) for this. Railways has been proactive in timely dispatches and arrivals,” said a railway ministry official.

On an annual basis, India imports about 6 million tonnes of urea, while the domestic production is about 24 million tonnes.

According to sources close to the development, there has been a 2.4 per cent increase in the cumulative handling of fertiliser by the national transporter from 33.6 million tonnes in April-November 2017 to 34.42 million tonnes in the same period this year.

Rake availability to coal sector has touched an all-time high of 461 rakes a day last week.

Railway ministry sources said the additional loading has been helpful in addressing the field demand across the country.

“According to the department of fertiliser, there has not been a single instance of fertiliser shortage during this period anywhere in the country. The crucial factor has been timely and adequate availability of railway rakes,” a senior railway official said.

The fertiliser seasons in the country are broadly divided into kharif (April-September) and rabi (October-November).

According to the assessed demands, the department of fertilisers issues a monthly supply plan to various fertiliser companies to cater to the demand of all the states. The companies place indents with the railways and the latter allots rakes to move the fertilisers from plants and ports.

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