Farmers are gradually increasing their use of non-urea fertilisers due to readjustment in prices by the government, a development welcomed by agriculturists as the excessive use of urea over the years has reduced soil fertility.
“The rebalancing of fertiliser use is an important result that has been achieved by a combination of gradual increase in urea prices and reduction in prices of other fertilisers,” the state-run Food Planning and Monitoring Unit said in its latest report.
In recent years, fertiliser use has been characterised by the excessive use of urea and inadequate use of other fertilisers, it said.
Non-urea fertilisers such as triple super phosphate (TSP) can now be bought for just Tk 22 per kilogram, which was Tk 80 per kilogram in fiscal 2009-10. Similarly, muriate of potash (MoP) now costs Tk 15 a kg, down 78 percent from fiscal 2010-11.
Diammonium phosphate (DAP), which sold at Tk 90 a kg in fiscal 2009-10, is now available to farmers for Tk 27.
In contrast, the government cut subsidies on urea, taking prices to Tk 16 from Tk 6 a kg five years ago. As a result, the sales of TSP, MoP and DAP soared, reflecting increased use by growers, according to the agriculture ministry.
The sales of TSP, which was 4.2 lakh tonnes in fiscal 2009-10, rose to 6.12 lakh tonnes in fiscal 2013-14. MoP sales jumped 71 percent from fiscal 2009-10 to 4.51 lakh tonnes in the recently concluded fiscal year.
At the same time, urea sales dropped to 22.13 lakh tonnes in fiscal 2013-14 from 24.09 lakh tonnes in fiscal 2009-10.
“The price cut has been beneficial for us. Our production is rising as we are using more non-urea now than in the past,” said Torikul Islam, a vegetables farmer from Jessore, one of the major vegetable growing regions.
Wais Kabir, former executive chairman of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, said the increased use of non-urea fertilisers will enable plants to get better nutrients to grow.
The production of fruits or vegetables will rise thanks to increased use of non-urea fertilisers, he added.
“It was our long-awaited expectations that fertiliser use will be balanced. The relatively balanced use of fertiliser will be instrumental in increasing food production and ensuring food security for the nation.”
Economist Mahabub Hossain said low prices of urea in the past encouraged farmers to use the production input more than it is required.
“The total sales of non-urea fertilisers indicate that usage has become relatively balanced -- it is a good thing for soil health.”
However, the total cost of subsidy, which is linked with international fertiliser prices, increased after revisions in prices of both urea and non-urea ones.
Total subsidy stood at Tk 9,000 crore in fiscal 2013-14, up 120.7 percent from fiscal 2009-10.
“The increased cost of subsidy will be offset by increased production and environmental safety. Overall benefits will be higher than the cost of subsidy in the long-term,” Kabir added.