R. Ramabhadran Pillai

Farmers organisations seek subsidy

Decision will affect productivity: forum

Farmers allege discrimination

KOCHI: A recent Union government order granting concessions to one of the two prominent varieties of phosphatic fertilizers has created discontent among farmers in the State.

Certain farmers’ associations are demanding similar concessions for the other variety.

As per the order pertaining to the pricing of single super phosphate (SSP), the government provides an ad hoc concession of Rs.2,000 per tonne of SSP. No such concession is allowed for the sale of rock phosphate.

The latter is used as a fertilizer in the State, according to farmers and farm activists who are spearheading a movement seeking concession (for rock phosphate). Farmers and experts point out that rock phosphate is ideal for Kerala and the north-eastern States, where the soil has acidic properties. SSP is mostly used in other States, according to them.

The Department of Fertilizers introduced a scheme for import substitution incentive to indigenous producers of rock phosphate in 1992, which was discontinued 6 years later.

The demand by farm activists in the State for the concession had been rejected by the government. Farmers in the State see the SSP subsidy as an act of discrimination against them.

“The move is unjustified,” agriculture expert R. Hali told The Hindu. “Fertilizer trade is open now. There is no reason to deny concession for rock phosphate,” he said. Rock phosphate is used to grow cash crops and it may not be of interest to north Indian farmers, he said.

The problem faced by the farming community in the State is that the rock phosphate deposits are found in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh while it is used in southern and north-eastern States, P.K. Pushpangathan, Kerala Farm Journalists’ Forum member and a former Agricultural Officer, said.

The distance between the producing and the consuming States is more than 2,000 km. The rail freight will have a major role to play in the pricing mechanism. A 50-kg bag of the subsidised SSP costs below Rs.180, while the same quantity of rock phosphate costs over Rs.240, Mr. Pushpangathan said.

The policy will force farmers to use the cheaper variety which will adversely affect productivity, according to M.A. Bhashyam, a farmer and forum member.

This will have seriously impact the farm sector which is under pressure to increase production. It will also lead to a foreign exchange drain as sulphur required for SSP production is imported, he added.

FACT officials said the company had been importing rock phosphate for use as raw material in the production of Factamfos, a fertilizer which is carries government subsidy.

The company had not sought any subsidy for rock phosphate, officials said.