Sudipto Mondal

MANGALORE: The supply of fertilizers to Dakshina Kannada for the kharif sowing season has gone up by 3,000 tonnes, or 25 per cent, this year. If anything, this should have put farmers in the district in a comfortable position compared to their counterparts in Haveri and Davangere, but the fact is that fertilizers are being openly sold in the black market across the district — something that even officials of the Agriculture Department are not willing to deny.

According to Sunny D’Souza of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, the same situation prevails throughout the Malnad region as well as in districts receiving high rainfall such as Mandya and Mysore. What farmers in areas receiving high rainfall are looking for is a “citric-soluble fertilizer” that retains its nutrients during heavy rain. And that is what is in acute short supply. What farmers are getting instead are large quantities of water-soluble fertilizers that get washed away or lose their nutrients during with heavy downpours.

According to M. Hanumanthappa, agronomist with the Zonal Agriculture Research Station, Brahmavar, Udupi, water-soluble fertilizers are best suited to the semi-arid farms in north Karnataka. Mr. Hanumanthappa explained that citric-soluble fertilizers dissolve very slowly in water, making them a preferred option in rain-fed areas. The most popular citric-soluble fertilizer complex in these high rainfall regions is “Suphala” manufactured by Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers Ltd. (RCFL), a Government of India undertaking based in Mumbai. Suphala is a complex fertilizer made up of nitrates, phosphates and potash.

While cooperative societies in Dakshina Kannada have run out of Suphala, which is officially priced at Rs. 266.29 for a 50 kg bag, it is being sold at over Rs. 350 a bag in the black market. The shortage in Dakshina Kannada alone is estimated to be around 2,500 tonnes.

Requests made

Since April 9 this year the district authorities have written five letters requesting Director of Agriculture A. Rajanna for more Suphala fertilizer. Each of the letters, made available to The Hindu state that the Suphala requirement in the district is “urgent”.

Responding to only one of these letters, Mr. Rajanna directed the local authorities to make do with water-soluble fertilizers such as di-ammonium phosphate, muriate of potash, urea, rock phosphate and nitrate-phosphate-potash mixtures.

However, when Mr. Rajanna was contacted, he denied having any knowledge of the Suphala shortage and said, “Although I have not received any complaint, I will enquire about it.”

B. Mathur, Executive Director of RCFL, told The Hindu that there was no shortage from the company’s side.

RCFL officials in Karnataka observed that the “clerical and quantitative approach” of the State Government while projecting their requirements to the Centre had resulted in the shortage of Suphala.

The State Government projects only the total requirement of nitrates, potash and sulphates to the Department of Fertilizers. This is a “sweeping macro-level approach,” said an official.

What is needed is a micro-level estimation of fertilizer requirements that takes into account the specific requirements of each region based on parameters such as soil quality, soil type and irrigation facilities, the official explained.

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