The acute shortage of chemical fertilizers has left farmers in the lurch at the time when the rice plantation begins in Nepal with the onset of the rainy season.
The coronavirus pandemic has thrown a spanner in the fertilizer import activities, leading to the shortage of chemical fertilizers in the domestic market.
Chemical fertilizers imported by Nepal are stuck at the Indian ports after the Indian authorities turned reluctant to facilitate transport movement amid the pandemic.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD), of the total quantity, 340,000 tons of fertilizers have already been distributed to the farmers, while the remaining 110,000 tons got stuck at the Indian ports.
Around 21,500 tons of urea is stuck at the Kandala port in Gujarat, while about 89,000 tons of fertilizers already bound to Nepal are stuck at Kolkata port.
Every year, the farmers have to struggle to get adequate quantities of agricultural inputs.
According to the MoALD, the annual demand for chemical fertilizers stands at around 800,000 tons, while official imports stand at 450,000 tons only.
Every year, the Nepali Government procures chemical fertilizers for the rice plantation through a global tendering process.
In the current FY 2019/20, the government has allocated NPR 10 billion to purchase fertilizers, up from NPR 8.99 billion in the previous fiscal.
Moreover, the government is subsidizing chemical fertilizers to provide some relief to the farmers. The farmers are currently given subsidies of 65-70% of the original cost in urea, 25-30% in DAP and 30-32% in potash.
At these subsidies, the farmers are supposed to pay around NPR 14 per kg for urea, NPR 43 per kg for DAP and NPR 31 per kg for potash.
However, the subsidized fertilizer covers only half of the total need, and the remaining is met by informal imports or shipments smuggled through the open border with India.