India may have jumped 30 ranks up in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index but how about ease of doing farming asks Harish Damodaran in the Indian Express. It takes 807 days to register a new fertiliser product for use in farmers’ fields, he says, quoting the World Bank ‘Enabling the Business of Agriculture, 2017’ report. That is more than two years and can go up to three years.
Before a fertiliser product is approved for use, it has to be field tested at least on two crops for two seasons. This data has to be given to the agriculture ministry, whose technical committee evaluates it before recommending approval to a 14-member Central Fertilizer committee. If it gives the nod, the agriculture minister endorses it and the product gets notified.
This hinders the introduction of specialty nutrients: (a) water-soluble ones that are used for drip irrigation and leap sprays; (b) products to supply secondary nutrients like calcium, magnesium and sulphur and micronutrients like zinc, boron, iron, manganese, copper and molybdenum. Example: zinc sulphate, copper sulphate, borax acid, molybdenum trioxide; and (c) specialty NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) fertilizers designed for specific crops. Damodaran cites two products sold by the Norwegian company Yara. One provides NPK in the ratio of 12:11:18 and is meant for banana, grape, pomegranate, tomato, onion and vegetables and the other in the ratio of 15:09:20 for coffee.
These water-soluble products are not eligible for subsidy. The ultimate loser is the farmer. The long registration process also adds to the fiscal deficit as it leads to the over-use of subsidized fertilizers.
(Top photo by Vivian Fernandes of a banner of Nagarjuna Fertilizers & Chemicals Ltd, about Pro Rise, its brand of specialty fertilizers)