Fertilizer Sector reforms – NBS, bio-fertilizers, Neem coating, etc.

[op-ed snap] From Plate to Plough: For farmers, the next big idea


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NCU and SHCs

Mains level: Why it is important to cut down the usage of Urea


PM’s comment on urea usage

  1. PM has asked farmers to cut urea consumption by half by 2022

Is it beneficial?

  1. A village in HP has increased wheat productivity by three times,
  2. By reducing urea consumption significantly through the use of soil health cards (SHCs) and increased their income by Rs 5,000 to 6,000 per acre

India’s urea market

  1. India consumes about 30 million tonnes (MT) of urea annually, of which about 24.5 MT is domestically produced and the rest is imported

Reason behind rising demand of urea

  1. Most of the industry players had been projecting increasing consumption of urea in India, given that higher incomes have increased the demand for food in the country
  2. Puzzling statement by the PM: In such a situation, the PM’s call for halving urea consumption by 2022 was somewhat puzzling to the fertiliser industry
  3. More so when the government itself is trying to increase urea production

But per hectare use of Urea is declining

  1. Urea consumption on a per hectare basis, has stagnated in India and the overall per hectare consumption of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and pottasium (K) has declined somewhat (See chart below)
  2. May be, this is due to dramatic changes in pricing of DAP (diammonium phosphate) and MOP (muriate of potash)
  3. Or government policies pertaining to to SHC or Neem Coated Urea (NCU)

Low price of urea in India

  1. Urea prices in neighbouring countries in South and Southeast Asia, including China, are at least two to three-times higher
  2. Also, the price ratio of urea to DAP and MOP is highly skewed
  3. Indian farmers are using higher doses of urea (nitrogen) compared to phosphate (DAP) and potash (MOP), and not getting the best results in terms of yields

Why is countering this situation important?(health wise)

  1. Indian soils are deficient in micronutrients, especially zinc (about 48 per cent) — a fallout of which is zinc deficiency in wheat and rice, which, in turn, contributes to stunting in children
  2. The imbalanced use of N, P and K, therefore, needs urgent correction
  3. And therefore, serious thought needs to be given to the PM’s call to slash urea consumption
  4. The PM’s call is as important as his call on February 28, 2016 to double farmers’ incomes by 2022

Importance of Neem Coated Urea(NCM) and Soil Health Cards(SHCs)

  1. NCU can improve nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) by about 10 per cent by slowing the release of nitrogen
  2. SHCs  can also help rationalise the use of urea, provided they are backed by a massive extension programme

The way forward

  1. If the government can move quickly in right direction, there is hope to cut urea consumption significantly, at least for some time


Soil health cards(SHCs)


Neem Coated Urea(NCU)


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