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Reliance on imported urea set to surge

* Fast fall in local output to blame * BCIC team in KSA to bring 405,000 tonnes of urea

Jubair Hasan | April 13, 2019 00:00:00

The country's dependence on imported fertiliser is set to rise in the next fiscal year for a steady fall in domestic production of the key agro input, officials said.

All but Ashuganj Fertiliser and Chemical Company Ltd (AFCCL) remain closed either for overhauling the age-old plants or for the building purpose.

Sources said the country begins to count the cost for fast becoming dependent on some imported chemical products, particularly fertiliser.

The Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation (BCIC) is communicating with major global fertiliser manufacturers to meet the growing domestic demand for such inorganic products.

As part of the move, officials concerned said, a five-member team is now visiting Saudi Arabia to have a contract for importing 405,000 tonnes of urea.

According to statistics, the BCIC used to produce more than 1.6 million tonnes of fertiliser through its enterprises 12 years ago and import a little.

But its productivity kept decreasing gradually, thus enhancing the country's dependence on imports.

The volume of imports rose to more than 900,000 tonnes in fiscal year 2017-18 and production reduced to less than 1.0 million tonnes.

Before flying abroad, BCIC chairman Md Haiul Kuaium told the FE that six fertiliser units were in operation, but production at most of the factories halted one after another.

He said production remained shut at Shahjalal Fertiliser Company Ltd and Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Factory Ltd for overhaul while output suspended at Jamuna Fertiliser Company Ltd for long.

"Overhauling will cause suspension of production for three months to 10 months considering the nature of the factories," he added.

On the other hand, construction is underway to built modern facilities on Ghorashal and Palash fertiliser factory sites. Only the AFCCL is in operation, Mr Kuaium went on to say.

"How can we meet the domestic demand (2.5 million tonnes) with the lone running AFCCL plant? We need to depend more on imports," he said.

According to Mr Kuaium, they will sign a deal with Saudi Basic Industries Corporation to procure urea to the tune of 405,000 tonnes.

Of the volume, 100,000 tonnes will be optional and it will be imported, if necessary.

Seeking anonymity, a BCIC official said the government is giving Tk 13,000 in subsidy against the import of each tonne of urea.

"In FY '20, imports will certainly increase and thus subsidy will rise," he mentioned.

Meanwhile, former BCIC chairman Mohammad Iqbal said fertiliser imports would keep mounting unless worn-out plants are fitted with latest technologies.

The BCIC was a vital sector that led 80 per cent of industrial development three decades ago, but things began to change for the authorities' negligence to it.

Mr Iqbal said the corporation never reinvested in the age-old units, escalating production costs many times.

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