On December 3, Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar told Rajya Sabha that there has been no shortage of fertilisers in the 2021-’22 rabi (winter) season.

When Rajya Sabha MP CM Ramesh asked whether farmers in the country are facing a shortage of fertilisers, Tomar responded saying, “No Sir. There has been no shortage of fertiliser in the ongoing rabi season.”

This has been the Centre’s response whenever asked about the shortage of fertilisers in the past year. On November 23, Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers Mansukh Mandaviya claimed that there was no shortage of fertilisers and he urged states to monitor requirement and supply on a daily basis for productive fertiliser management.

Similarly, in another Lok Sabha response, Mandaviya, while denying the shortage of fertilisers, also said the Centre had received complaints from some states regarding the shortage of diammonium phosphate fertiliser. He also said that before the commencement of each cropping season, the Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, in consultation with all the states, assesses state-wise and month-wise requirements of fertilisers.

Similar responses have been given in the previous months as well. However, this claim does not check out because data from the Department of Fertilisers, Government of India, show that availability and sales of fertilisers, such as muriate of potash and diammonium phosphate, has reduced significantly.

A fertiliser is a chemical product, either mined or manufactured material, containing one or more essential plant nutrients that are immediately or potentially available in sufficiently good amounts, according to the Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers.

The main fertilisers used on crops, especially during the two cropping seasons: kharif (April to September) and rabi (October to March) in India are urea, diammonium phosphate, muriate of potash, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, single super phosphate and triple super phosphate.

What records show

The Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers records show that the requirement for diammonium phosphate in October was 18.08 lakh metric tonnes but only over 9.7 lakh metric tonnes diammonium phosphate was available and of this only 9.1 lakh metric tonnes was sold.

This means the country could not provide nearly half (49.64%) of the required quantity of diammonium phosphate fertilisers to farmers. In November too, there was a shortage of around 21% of diammonium phosphate in the country.

Similarly, there was a shortage of 59.37% of muriate of potash fertilisers in October. While the requirement for muriate of potash was 3.43 lakh metric tonnes, only a little over 1.71 lakh metric tonnes was available and 1.39 lakh metric tonnes of muriate of potash was sold. The next month, this shortage rose to 71.7%.

Demand and supply

India mainly imports urea, diammonium phosphate and potassium chloride, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. Urea accounts for 82% of the total consumption of fertilisers, while diammonium phosphate accounts for 63% of consumption followed by the consumption of other complex fertilisers (27%).

In October, the requirement of urea was 36.15 lakh metric tonnes, of which 26.27 lakh metric tonnes was made available and 24.16 lakh metric tonnes was eventually sold, showed data maintained by the Department of Fertilisers. This shows a shortage of 33%, which increased to 35% the next month.

In fact, since diammonium phosphate is supposed to be cheaper than nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, farmers generally prefer it despite its quality being inferior, Surendra Nath Tripthi, deputy manage, Indian Farmers and Fertiliser Cooperative Kisan Seva Kendra at Barabanki district, toldIndiaSpend.

When it comes to nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, records show that stock availability was more than required. However, the government did not sell enough leading to a 12.5% and 19% shortage of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in October and November, respectively.

Farmers queued up outside the same IFFCO centre told IndiaSpend that they line up there from 5 am waiting for fertilisers and while only a few get it, those who do said they did not get enough for their crops.

FactChecker tried contacting Tomar for a clarification via call and email, but did not receive a response at the time of publishing this article.

This article first appeared on FactChecker.in, a publication of the data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit IndiaSpend.