Before sowing Rabi, farmers in Bihar are facing a fertilizer crisis

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Meena Devi, 55, from Triveniganj in the Supaul district has lost hope. For the past three days she had tried unsuccessfully to buy fertilizer. “Today (Friday) is the third day that I return home without fertilizer. I reach BISCOMAUN (Bihar State Cooperative Marketing Union Ltd.) at 3 a.m. After 14 hours I had to return empty-handed, ”she says, expressing her frustration at the unavailability of fertilizer, especially DAP (diammonium phosphate), which is badly needed for the wheat harvest.

“Premature rains destroyed our rice field and now the government is spoiling our prospects for Rabi,” she laments.

In southern Bihar, farmers cook in the high season of rabi sowing due to an unprecedented lack of fertilizers. In protest they have blocked streets, pelted stones and raised slogans against the central government, which had allegedly sent Bihar quota fertilizers to Uttar Pradesh and Punjab in order to win the upcoming parliamentary elections.

In four districts of the Shahabad region, namely Rohtas, Kaimur, Buxar and Bhojpur, only 14% of the required DAP and 16% of the required urea fertilizer were obtained. The region that produced the largest proportion of rice and wheat in the state is called the Bihar Granary.

“In the Kaimur district, only 1,275.75 metric tons (MT) of DAP and 4,442 MT of urea fertilizer contrasted with the demand of 8,999 MT and 27,000 MT for the rabi season, respectively,” said Rewati Raman, district agricultural officer, adding that 1,000 MT from DAP would be arriving next week.

The sowing season for Rabi in the region starts on November 15th and ends on December 15th.

Dhananjay Tiwary from Rampur, a large farmer, said the central government created an artificial crisis by sending the Bihar quota of fertilizers to the poll-bound UP and Punjab, and the state government is silent.

The shortage has predictably led to a black market.

The state tariff for 50 kg sack for DAP is fixed at ₹1,200 and at ₹266 for urea, said the DAO.

On the black market, however, the fertilizers brought by UP are sold at much higher prices. Farmer Bajarangi Singh from Bhagwanpur said that the desired amount of DAP and urea can be obtained on the black market ₹1500 and ₹350 per bag.

According to Singh, the Department of Agriculture only gave a farmer two bags of fertilizer. Since the soil dried quickly, farmers had no choice but to buy fertilizer on the black market in order to sow wheat in time.

The fertilizer crisis threatens to hinder the sowing of rabi plants in Darbhanga. “First, fertilizers like DAP (diammonoxide phosphate) and potash are not readily available on the market. If available at all, prices have gone through the roof. Buying fertilizers at exorbitant prices is beyond our reach, ”says Hemchandra Singh, a farmer in the Hayaghat Block.

Many farmers in Kushothar Panchayat under the Bahadurpur block claimed that a large number of unlicensed fertilizer, seed and pesticide shops had appeared in the area these days.

“We have instructed the officials concerned to closely monitor fertilizer dealers regarding the shortage and illegal marketing of fertilizers in the district,” said Thiyagrajan SM, district judge of Darbhanga.

The Seemanchal region also has a lack of fertilizers, where around 85 percent of the population is dependent on agriculture.

Sunil Kumar Jha, 45, from Japharpur village in Purnia said, “We ran from shop to shop but couldn’t get DAP fertilizer, which is urgently needed for wheat sowing.”

However, Agriculture Department officials say the crisis will end very soon and DAP supplies have even resumed. “At the same time, we advise farmers to use alternative methods so that the rabi plants are not compromised,” said Prakash Chandra Mishra, Purnia County Agriculture Commissioner.

Contributions by Bishnu K Jha and Aditya Nath Jha

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