Farmer Bhim Bahadur Basnet of Maharanijhoda-6, Jhapa district got up at midnight and rushed to the office of Sana Kishan Krishi Sahakari Sanstha at Skulchaun in order to be the first in the queue to buy fertilizer. When he arrived at the cooperative office at 1 am, he was stunned to find that two of his friends, Netra Bahadur Khadka and Ram Rayamajhi, and a bunch of other farmers were already there.
By early morning, another 700 people had joined the queue, but the cooperative only had 50 sacks of the highly prized urea fertilizer. “I could only feel pity for the farmers,” said Chiranjeevi Bhandari, manager of the cooperative. “How can I fulfil the requirement of all the farmers with just 50 sacks of fertilizer?”
The office of state-owned Agriculture Inputs Company (AIC) at Birtamod issues 50 sacks of fertilizers per week to selected cooperatives to distribute.
Cooperative operators are having a hard time deciding how to fulfil the requirement of the hordes of farmers who crowd into their offices to buy fertilizer. The perennial shortage of soil enrichers has enraged the farmers.
Farmer Basnet says he was delayed planting paddy due to late monsoon, but lack of fertilizer means he will have to face a subsistence problem.
Another farmer 70-year-old Ram Bhakta Karki, who had been staying in line since 3 am, vented rage at the government for failing to provide adequate quantities of urea. “They say we are an agricultural country but fail to supply fertilizers,” complained an angry Karki. “So many farmers have forgone sleep to stay in line in the night, but they are not getting any fertilizer.”
Meanwhile, AIC in Jhapa explained that it was not able to provide fertilizers in Jhapa as a bridge on the East-West Highway in Mahottari had collapsed. Storekeeper Om Prasad Parajuli said they receive four truckloads of fertilizers weekly which is way short of demand. “We require 8,000 sacks of fertilizers per week, but the supply is just 400 sacks,” said Parajuli.
AIC distributes subsidized fertilizers through a network of 80 cooperatives in Jhapa. “This year’s paddy production will be severely hit if urea is not put on the fields within the next two weeks,” said Rajendra Kharel, Plant Protection Officer at the District Agriculture Development Office. “If the fertilizer is not put before the paddy making process begins, it causes huge losses.”
Combined with a late monsoon and devastating floods and landslides, the fertilizer scarcity could lead to a drop in agricultural production this year for which the government has projected an economic growth rate of 6 percent.