Factors such as water scarcity in Punjab and increase in fertilizer prices may have resulted in 27% decrease in paddy sowing till July 1 during this kharif season. Farmers’ organisations say the situation is worrisome, and demanded the Centre lower the prices of fertilizers. Farmers have flagged the high prices of diammonium phosphate (DAP), muriate of potash, and nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK), key fertilizers used in cultivating paddy.
However, the Union Agriculture Ministry says it’s too early to assess any decrease in the acreage of cultivation as the monsoon is not yet active in north India. Union Agriculture Secretary Manoj Ahuja told The Hindu on Thursday that the Centre is monitoring the situation. “As the monsoon gets active, sowing will also improve. It is too early to predict a decrease in paddy sowing. We are constantly monitoring the situation,” Mr. Ahuja said.
Union Food Minister Piyush Goyal had recently urged States to encourage farmers to sow paddy in more areas.
Government data shows that till July 1, paddy has been sown in 43.45 lakh hectares in the country. In the same period in 2021, the sowing was 59.56 lakh hectares. This kharif season, the decrease so far in acreage of paddy is 16.11 lakh hectares (27.05%).
Government data also shows fertilizer costs have increased globally. The global price of DAP, according to the Centre, has increased by about 65.66% from $565/MT in May 2021 to $936/MT in May 2022, according to the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers. Similarly, the price of MOP has increased by about 110.71% from $280/MT in May 2021 to $590/MT in May 2022. The Centre maintains it has ensured availability of fertilizers and regulated prices through subsidies.
Farmers’ groups have expressed grave concerns. “The government has abysmally failed on the fertilizer front in the last seven months. The fertilizer shortage and rise in price has led to tremendous black marketing. DAP and potash are required for rice. Farmers are unable to plant rice if they don’t get fertilizers. The mismanagement of the Centre has led to a situation that food security is in threat. Government is only worried about the export market. They are not worried about the food security of the country. High diesel prices have also created a problem for farmers. Many farmers have decided to leave their land fallow as, if they do any sowing, they fear losses,” All India Kisan Sabha president Ashok Dhawale said.
Apart from fertilizer prices, “Diesel and petrol prices also must be brought down and the MSP (minimum support price) on paddy must increase. Compared to inflation, the increase in MSP is nothing,” he said.
Farmers’ leader from Punjab, Pavel Kussa, said the Centre is trying to introduce export oriented agriculture. “The stocks of both rice and wheat with the government are insufficient. They are running away from the responsibility and handing over the agriculture sector to big companies. They are luring farmers citing global prices. Crop diversification has to be taken up immediately in Punjab. Paddy is not Punjab’s crop. It requires a lot of water and paddy cultivation is resulting in depletion of water levels. Farmers are compelled to cultivate paddy as it is procured by the government. If diversification has to happen, procurement of other crops should also take place. There is a huge shortage of fertilizers and water in the State,” Mr. Kussa said.