Severe urea fertiliser crisis is feared in the upcoming Boro season, as the authority concerned finds it difficult to handle the growing supply-demand mismatch of the key agro input, officials said.
To avert such an unpleasant situation during the production season of a major rice crop, the Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation (BCIC) has requested the Ministry of Industries (MoI) to take immediate measures for resumption of gas supply to the closed fertiliser producing units.
Seeking anonymity, an official of the MoI said they have received a number of letters from the BCIC during the last several days. The corporation warned the MoI of possible consequences in the coming Boro season.
Farmers usually start using urea in large quantities from early December and continue until March.
Quoting from the letters, he said production of urea in a number of units has been kept suspended for months due to the cut in supply of natural gas, which is the basic raw material of this particular organic fertiliser.
"The BCIC demanded immediate resumption of gas supply to its three urea-producing units on priority basis," he added.
The three units are Jamuna Fertiliser Company Ltd (JFCL), Shahjalal Fertiliser Company Ltd (SFCL) and Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Factory (CUFL).
The BCIC, in its recent letter issued on Monday, stated that the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) had set a demand for 2.55 million tonnes of urea in this financial year (FY), 2018-19, and advised it to keep a buffer stock of 0.8 million tonnes to meet any exigency.
According to the projection, 1.6 million tonnes of urea will be imported, while 10 million tonnes will be produced domestically.
It said the national plan for fertiliser supply will not be implemented without domestic production.
Besides, 0.62 million tonnes of fertiliser will be needed in the current mini peak (July-September) season, while another 0.38 million tonnes will be required for October-November period.
The demand of 1.0 million tonnes for up to November cannot be met by the buffer stock, and then the peak cropping season will begin.
So, it is mandatory to resume production at the state-owned fertiliser units to avoid the deficit, according to BCIC.
"The possible supply shortage could create an embarrassing situation for both the government and the BCIC," it stated.
Talking to the FE, BCIC Director (Finance) Md. Haiul Quaium said all the state-owned urea fertiliser factories have been shut since April due to gas supply shortage.
"We've no fertiliser now, except the buffer stock. We need uninterrupted supply of gas to the factories to resume production."
Terming the agro-input supply a sensitive issue, Mr. Quaium said it takes time to import fertiliser from abroad.
"It's not easy to import fertiliser. It's a lengthy process. It takes around six months from signing agreement to supply fertiliser to the farmers. So, we've to depend on domestic production."
He said the government highly prioritised the issue of food security, and the use of fertiliser is one of the keys to achieve that.
"I hope the government will take the matter seriously, and take urgent steps to this effect."
When contacted, MoI Secretary Muhammad Abdullah said they have taken the matter seriously and started talks with the agencies concerned.
"I personally talked with the energy secretary over the matter, and he seemed positive about resumption of gas supply."
Mr. Abdullah informed that gas supply to JFCL resumed Tuesday last, and it will start producing fertiliser within a couple of days.
"I hope we'll get also good news for SFCL soon," he added.
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