Friday, 2 December, 2022

Increased Prices of Fuel and Fertilizer: Things Need to Be Considered

Dr. Mohammad Rezaul Karim

The government has increased the price of fertilizers and fuel, the two most important inputs for agricultural crop production. Fertilizers are indispensable for successful crop production since modern HYV cultivars cultivated across the country are more fertilizer responsive. On the other hand, during plowing and preparing the land by power tillers, tractors, and groundwater lifting, mostly for the cultivation of winter crops, fuel (diesel) is largely used. Even due to a shortage of rainfall and delayed by rainfall sometimes supplement irrigation also need to cultivate Aman rice. According to a report by BRR the total irrigated area is about 5.58 million hectares (Mha) of which 4.8 Mha area is occupied by Boro rice cultivation and this area covered about 80 per cent of the total irrigated area. Rice is a high-water-loving crop and needs around 1000-1200 litres of water to produce one kilogram of rice. According to BBS 2017, the total irrigated area is increasing due to the use of shallow tubewells, deep tubewells and low-lift pumps. As per information by Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC), about 75 per cent of the farmers irrigate their land through diesel-powered engines during Boro season. As a consequence, farmers, the extensive users of these essential inputs, will suffer from these price hikes and finally affecting agricultural crop production.

Not only that, but the recent price hike of all essential commodities used in our daily life will also lead to reducing the purchasing capacity of many farmers, particularly medium and small farmers. This may create an obstacle to buying essential inputs like fertilizers and fuel to cultivate crops and consequently lead to a lower yield of many crops.

Even, the UN recently warns that the world may suffer a serious food shortage in the coming years where nearly 276 million people worldwide may face food insecurity. Considering these, what to do to feed the ever-growing population with minimum utilisation of natural resources and maintain ecological balance is a big question ahead. A clear and precise policy should be taken by the policymakers and, of course, there should have a positive commitment by the politicians as well.

Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) are three major macro-nutrients that we mostly provide in the field in the form of Urea, TSP and MoP respectively to cultivate our crops. The yearly demand for Urea is about 27-28 lakh tonnes whereas Bangladesh only produces 10 lakh tonnes, even though sometimes production is hampered due to energy (gas) shortages. This year about 4.64 lakh tonnes TSP, 5.02 lakh tonnes MoP and 10.37 lakh tonnes DAP have been imported from different countries to meet the local demand.

Therefore, Bangladesh needs to spend a huge amount of money every year to purchase these fertilizers from different countries. We, therefore, have no alternative but to move on to more sustainable cultivation practices to reduce the uses and dependency on these chemical fertilizers. Practicing the proper way of cropping patterns can reduce the dependency on chemical fertilizers, even this practice also can improve soil productivity. In this connection, Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) of Bangladesh is also emphasising the importance of bringing and disseminating more modern and high-yielding oil seed and pulse crop varieties at the farmers’ level. Due to changing adverse climatic conditions, scientists are focusing more on developing drought, saline and submergence-tolerant rice varieties. More attention also needs to be given to developing and introducing high-nutrient-efficient crop varieties, especially high-nutrient-efficient rice varieties. It is now the demand of time. This can save a huge amount of fertilizers as well as the country’s currency in both Aman and Boro season in Bangladesh.

By practicing Conservation Agriculture (CA) and Regenerative Agriculture (RA) approaches at the farmers’ level, farmers can cultivate their crops using less fuel and less fertilizers and contribute more to reducing the greenhouse gas effect. The country is going to shift from conventional to mechanization. How more sustainable renewable energy can be used in this regard need to focus more.

More awareness needs to build among the farmers to go for cultivation crops maintaining natural resources. A comprehensive and updated review must need across the country to understand recent soil fertility, soil productivity status and land types of different zones in Bangladesh. A suitable cropping pattern based on these aspects needs to be developed and the information must be available in the farmers' hands as and when required. Balanced application of fertilizer dose is also important to perfectly utilise and uptake nutrition from the soil. In many cases, farmers do not follow the balanced fertilizer dose during the application of fertilizer. As a consequence, in most cases, applied nutrient elements through fertilizers whether these may fix in the soil or become unavailable for plants later on produce a toxic environment inside the soil. In addition, we still have a chance to bring more area under cultivation, especially where triple-cropped area (TCA) is less. In this regard, we can particularly mention the Sylhet region where TCA is very less. Land law must be maintained properly in collaboration with the concerned agency. Due to the increased population, many agricultural lands are being used for non-agricultural purposes, which is also alarming for food security.


The writer is an Assistant Professor, College of Agricultural Sciences at the IUBAT