Daily Editorial for Mains 25 Jun 2022

Daily Editorial For Mains | RaghukulCS

25 June 2022 - Saturday


Table of Contents


Rethink Consumption of Expensive Fertilizers


Based on “The Fertilizer Pinch,” an editorial that appeared in The Indian Express on June 24, 2022. It discusses the requirement to limit India’s fertiliser consumption owing to rising international prices.

For Prelims:

Agriculture, crop patterns, fertilisers, the science underlying fertilisers, and related initiatives 

For Mains

Agriculture’s Importance fertiliser economics, fertiliser science, fertilisers’ effects Initiative by the government

  • Any substance, whether of natural or synthetic origin, applied to soil or plant tissues for the purpose of supplying nutrients to plants is a fertiliser.
  • Due to supply chain disruptions and an increase in fertiliser prices, India is having trouble satisfying its demand for fertiliser.
  • India has the largest agricultural land area of any nation. Its land used for crop agriculture was 169.3 million hectares (mh) in 2019, which was more than the US (160.4 mh), China (135.7 mh), Russia (123.4 mh), or Brazil (63.5 mh). India has a reputation for having an abundance of land, water, and sunshine to support a thriving agricultural sector.
  • Mineral fertilisers are one resource, however, where the nation is severely dependent on imports.
  • Fertilizer imports are a major source of revenue for India. All fertiliser imports reached a record high of $12.77 in Fiscal Year 2021–22.
  • In this regard, India needs to limit and lower its fertiliser consumption as well as lower its import costs.

What Are the Different Fertilizer Types?

  • Urea: 
  • Natural gas is a key source of urea fertiliser.
  • Since methane is the primary component of natural gas, hydrogen can be produced readily by putting natural gas through a process known as “steam reforming.”
  • After obtaining hydrogen, we can combine it with nitrogen to create ammonia, which can then be combined with carbon dioxide to create urea or utilised on its own as a fertiliser.
Di-ammonium phosphate (DAP):
  • After urea, DAP is the fertiliser that is used the most frequently in India.
  • DAP (46 percent Phosphorus, 18 percent Nitrogen) is the preferred source of Phosphorus for farmers. This is comparable to urea, their preferred nitrogenous fertiliser, which contains 46% N.
  • Potassium chloride, sometimes referred to as muriate of potash, contains 60 percent potash. Potassium is necessary for healthy plant growth. It is essential for the synthesis of proteins and carbohydrates.

How much imports does India make?

  • Direct Use Imports
  • India imported 12.77 billion dollars’ worth of fertiliser in total in 2021–2022.

Raw material imports:

  • Natural gas is the main feedstock for urea.
  • India purchased 23.42 mt of liquefied natural gas (LNG) worth $13.7 billion in 2021–2022
  • According to data from the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, the consumption of re-gasified LNG by the fertiliser industry was over 41%. The LNG purchases made by the sector would have totaled more than $5.5 billion.
Di-Ammonium Phosphate:
  • Ammonia and phosphoric acid are two intermediary compounds imported by domestic producers. Some even import rock phosphate and sulfuric acid in order to produce phosphoric acid.
  • Sulfur can be imported and used to make phosphoric acid.
  • 33 mt of complicated fertilisers are included (containing nitrogen-N, phosphorus-P, potassium-K and sulphur-S in different ratios).

What difficulties does India face?

  • In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, India is struggling to meet its demand for fertiliser, which has been disrupted ahead of the kharif sowing season.
  • Russia, a significant natural gas exporter, supplied 32% of the gas used in the European Union (including the United Kingdom) in 2021.
  • Much of this has not gotten out because of Russia’s sanctions.
  • Following Russia’s invasion, the supply of urea made from natural gas has been severely affected.
Growing Fertilizer Demand:
  • As India’s agricultural output has expanded annually, so has the nation’s demand for fertilisers.
  • Even with imports, there are still gaps between demand and supply because domestic production goals weren’t reached.
  • Although supply has been limited, demand has increased.
Fertilizer Subsidy:
  • To make this essential component of agriculture affordable for farmers, the government provides a subsidy to fertiliser manufacturers.
  • Farmers are now able to purchase fertilisers at prices below market value.
  • The subsidy element, which is borne by the government, is the difference between the cost of production or import of a fertiliser and the actual amount paid by farmers.
Urea Subsidy:
  • The Center provides urea subsidies to fertiliser producers based on the cost of production at each plant, and the units are compelled to sell the fertiliser at the government-established Maximum Retail Price (MRP).
Non-Urea Fertilizer Subsidy:
  • Non-Urea Fertilizer MRPs are decontrolled or set by the firms. To guarantee that the price of these nutrients is set at “acceptable levels,” the Center, however, pays a flat per-tonne subsidy.
  • Di-Ammonium Phosphate (DAP), muriate of potash, and other non-urea fertilisers are examples (MOP).
Influence of Pandemic:
  • Over the past two years, the pandemic has had an impact on fertiliser output, import, and transportation worldwide.
  • Due to a drop in production, China, the world’s largest producer of fertilisers, has gradually decreased shipments.
  • This has had an effect on nations like India, which imports 40–45% of its phosphate from China.

What steps has India taken to address this issue?

Urea’s Neem Coating:
  • All domestic producers are required by the Department of Fertilizers (DoF) to produce Neem Coated Urea at a 100 percent purity (NCU).
NCU advantages include:
  • Neem Coated Urea has a higher Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) than regular urea because of the slower nitrogen release, which leads to less NCU being consumed overall.
  • a better state of soil health.
  • use of plant-protection agents is reduced.
  • decrease in disease and pest attacks.
  • 2015’s New Urea Policy (NUP)
  • Maximize domestic urea production is one of the policy’s goals.
  • to increase the urea units’ energy efficiency.
  • to explain the government of India’s subsidy load.
New Investment Policy-2012:
  • To encourage new investment in the urea sector and to make India self-sufficient in the urea sector, the government launched New Investment Policy (NIP)-2012 in January 2013 and made revisions in 2014.
  • Use of Space Technology in the Fertilizer Industry: The Department of Fertilizers contracted the National Remote Sensing Center under ISRO, in association with the Geological Survey of India (GSI) and the Atomic Mineral Directorate, to conduct a three-year Pilot Study on “Resource Mapping of Rock Phosphate using Reflectance Spectroscopy and Earth Observations Data” (AMD).
The NBS (nutrient-based subsidy) programme:
  • The DoF began implementing it in April 2010.
  • According to the NBS, each grade of subsidised Phosphatic & Potassic (P&K) fertilisers receives a specific amount of subsidy based on its nutrient content each year.
  • It aims to ensure that fertilisers are used in a balanced manner, increase agricultural output, foster the expansion of the domestic fertiliser sector, and lessen the burden of subsidies.

What strategy should India take going forward?

  • Nitrification and Urease
  • incorporating nitrification inhibitors and urease into urea.
  • In essence, these substances act as inhibitors of urea hydrolysis, which results in the release of ammonia gas into the atmosphere, and nitrification (leading to below-ground loss of nitrogen through leaching).
  • Farmers can harvest the same, if not greater, yields with fewer urea bags by decreasing ammonia volatilization and nitrate leaching, which increases the amount of nitrogen available to the crop.
  • Other strategies include promoting the sale of complex fertilisers and single super phosphate (SSP), which contains 16% phosphorus and 11% sulphur.
  • In addition, India can import more rock phosphate to produce SSP directly or turn it into “weak” phosphoric acid to create complex fertiliser.
  • DAP shouldn’t be used on other crops; it should only be used on paddy and wheat. Other crops don’t need fertilisers with a 46 percent phosphorus concentration.
  • About three-fourths of the imported material for MOP is now used directly, and only the remaining portion is sold after being incorporated into complexes. The proper order is the reverse.

Moral argument:

  • India needs to wean its farmers off of all high-analysis fertilisers, according to the moral argument.
  • A concentrated effort is needed, along with the promotion of high-nutrient, practical, water-soluble fertilisers (such as potassium nitrate, potassium sulphate, calcium nitrate, etc.), as well as the utilisation of alternative indigenous sources (for example, potash derived from molasses-based distillery spent-wash and from seaweed extract).
  • Without farmers knowing a viable DAP replacement and which NPK complex or organic manure may cut their urea application from 2.5 to 1.5 bags per acre, no plan to cap or restrict consumption of high-analysis fertilisers can work.
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RaghukulCS : Questions

  • Q). The rising demand for fertilizers and the global increase in their price is a double-edged sword that hurts India’s agricultural economy. Discuss.

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