The government is in talks with Iran to set up a fertiliser plant in the gulf country, Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu said yesterday.
The minister spoke at a discussion on the upcoming industrial policy, organised by the Newspaper Owners Association of Bangladesh at the Prothom Alo office in Dhaka.
The talks are in the preliminary stages, said Industries Secretary Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan.
As per the proposal, the plant will be set up under a joint venture, and Iran will provide land and gas, the secretary told The Daily Star.
Either state-run Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation (BCIC) or a private company will be asked to set up the plant through a joint venture, which is expected to manufacture 7-10 lakh tonnes of fertiliser a year. The discussion on the proposed fertiliser plant dates back to 2010 when Iran proposed to set up a joint-venture gas-based factory in Tehran.
But the government declined the offer as Bangladesh faces a dearth of skilled workforce in the sector and a significant amount of investment would be required.
The proposal resurfaced recently because fertiliser factories in Bangladesh are facing a serious shortage of gas. The government is forced to shut down the factories at times because of the supply crunch of gas.
There are eight fertiliser companies in Bangladesh, which produced 1 million tonnes of fertiliser in 2014-15, according to BCIC that owns all the fertiliser companies. In the same year, Bangladesh bought 3.91 tonnes of urea fertiliser from Karnaphuli Fertiliser Company Ltd in Chittagong and 14 lakh tonnes of urea from international markets. The annual demand for urea and non-urea fertilisers is estimated at about 3.5 million tonnes, 1.2 million tonnes of which are imported, according to the industries ministry.
To cut import reliance, the government is setting up Shahjalal Fertiliser Factory in Fenchuganj, Sylhet. Once completed, it will be the country's biggest fertiliser factory.
The factory with a production capacity of 5.8 lakh tonnes a year is adjacent to the age-old state-run Natural Gas Fertiliser Factory.
The industries ministry is implementing the Tk 5,409 crore project with technical assistance from the United States and the Netherlands and financial support from China.