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Friday, September 09, 2011

Urea shortage hits gardens - Uncertainty over tea production, export

Also in The Telegraph, by PULLOCK DUTTA Jorhat, Aug. 11: Shortage of fertilisers, especially urea, has hit the tea industry hard with the industry warning that unless supply is restored immediately, production would be affected this year. “Tea estates have not been able to apply urea in the second split and unless immediate supply is restored, tea production will be adversely affected and projected tea production and export targets cannot be met,” an Indian Tea Association communiqué said. Assam produces about 500 million kg of tea every year which is more than 50 per cent of the country’s total production. Urea is a must for the tea crop which is applied in three splits (phases): March-April, June-July and August-September. The Indian Tea Association (ITA) is in constant touch with the Union ministry of chemicals and fertilisers and the agricultural directorate of the Assam government in this regard. The shortage of one of the primary fertilisers for tea crop has been because of breakdowns of two units of the Brahmaputra Valley Fertilisers Corporation Ltd (BVFCL) — the only authorised supplier of the subsidised urea in the region. The ITA has also held a meeting with the BVFCL authorities recently in this regard. The BVFCL authorities were requested to make extra efforts to make the material available immediately. The BVFCL informed the ITA delegation that it was a routine for the BVFCL to shut down its units for maintenance every year in April for 15 days. This year, however, it had taken a considerable time to re-commission because of a major breakdown in both the units. To avert a similar crisis situation in the future, the tea industry should lift the material regularly latest by February/March each year and stock for the two major split applications — June-July and August-September, the ITA delegation was told. Sources in the tea industry said taking advantage of the shortage, various dealers were charging exorbitant prices for the material which is available in the black market. Till a couple of months back, urea was available in the market at Rs 5,640 per metric tonne but today the prices have soared to anything between Rs 8,000 and Rs 9,000. “We are buying urea at exorbitant rates and this has added to the cost of production manifold. It will be difficult for many gardens to buy fertilisers at this high price which will have an effect on production this year,” former chairman of the Assam Tea Planters’ Association (ATPA), Raj Barooah, said. A BVFCL official said that the central PSU would make enquiries regarding a few dealers charging higher prices for urea, and take necessary action including cancellation of dealership licence. He said that BVFCL had a commitment to supply the material to Manipur, Tripura, Bihar and Nepal apart from Assam. “We are trying to restore normal supply very shortly,” he said. Top

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