Diammonium Phosphate Fertiliser: Production halted, shortage feared
Domestic production of diammonium phosphate, a widely used agricultural fertiliser, remains suspended since July 1, raising concerns over meeting its enormous domestic demand.
This happened due to a lack of coordination between the state-owned manufacturing company and the industries ministry over import of its key raw materials.
DAP Fertiliser Company Limited (DAPFCL) is supposed to supply around 1.5 lakh tonnes of the fertiliser to the agriculture ministry to distribute among farmers at a subsidised price this fiscal year.
But with the purchase proposal of raw materials until very recently awaiting ministry approval, the suspension might hamper agricultural production and even require imports.
The proposal finally received approval the day offices reopened after Eid-ul-Azha, celebrated on July 21, nearly two months after it had been sent to the ministry.
"Once the purchase proposal is approved, it takes at least two months to import the raw materials and for them to reach the factory," Abdur Rahman Badshah, general manager (operations) of the DAPFCL.
This would mean production may not resume till October, halted for three whole months, he added.
Based in Chattogram, DAPFCL is the lone producer of the fertiliser in the country. With its high nutrient content, this fertiliser acts as a substitute for both urea and triple superphosphate.
DAPFCL officials said production has been halted since July 1 due to the shortage of phosphoric acid, the main raw material for making the fertiliser.
"The proposal seeking approval to import three lots of raw materials through the two lowest bidders was sent to the industries ministry on June 2," Badshah told The Daily Star.
He said the proposal, which received approval on July 25, was for the purchase 30,000 tonnes of phosphoric acid at a cost of Tk 177.34 crore.
Another DAPFCL official told The Daily Star that while DAP production had previously been suspended temporarily due to a shortage of gas and other technical reasons, it had never been halted due to unavailability of raw materials.
Contacted, Shibnath Roy, additional secretary (state owned enterprise) of the ministry, said, "Proposals should usually be sent at least three months before for approval."
He said the ministry needs time to verify the accuracy of these purchase proposals, tender processes, and product prices before approval.
"We also look into whether there is any irregularity or nepotism in the tender process. A procurement proposal is sent to the Cabinet Division after scrutiny in various stages," said Roy.
He said it is regrettable that the factory is closed due to the lack of raw materials. "It must be investigated whether there was any negligence."
Asked about the delay of sending the purchase proposal to the ministry, DAPFCL's Badshah said, "It took a little longer to complete the tender process due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, there are no rules on sending proposals three months before. Earlier, such a proposal was approved in less than a month."
A ministry official, requesting anonymity, said the purchase proposals showed only a few companies are getting work orders every year. "As a result, it is being investigated," he said.
In the last five years, the factory has produced around four lakh tonnes of the fertiliser, with 1.02 lakh tonnes produced in the 2020-21 fiscal year, according to DAPFCL data.
For the current fiscal year 2021-22, DAPFCL has set a target of producing 1.5 lakh tonnes of fertiliser to meet growing demand. Around 600 employees are currently working in the factory, established in 2001 to meet the demand of DAP fertiliser in the agricultural sector.
Syed Mohammad Rafiqul Amin, deputy director (fertiliser management) of the Department of Agricultural Extension, told The Daily Star, that they get about one lakh tonnes of fertiliser from DAPFCL every year.
"If the factory fails to deliver the fertiliser on time, we will have to import it," he said.
The DAE official said since the main ingredient of this fertiliser is nitrogen (in the form of ammonia) and phosphate, it has the benefits of both urea and triple superphosphate.
"If the right amount of this fertiliser is used, it is not necessary to use urea and triple superphosphate separately in the land. That is why there is a growing trend among farmers to use diammonium phosphate fertiliser in the production of vegetables, Rabi crops, and other crops including paddy, wheat, maize," said Rafiqul.
The demand for this fertiliser is increasing at a rate of 30-40 percent every year, he added.
He also said its relatively high nutrient content and excellent physical properties help flowers and fruits grow as well as saplings.
"This fertiliser helps improve production as well as reduces the costs of the farmers," he said.
To popularise the fertiliser, the government would buy it at Tk 45 per kg and sell it to farmers at Tk 25, he said.
"Recently, the government has decided to increase the amount of subsidy to farmers by selling it at Tk 16 per kg, which will take effect soon."