Severe urea shortage leads to row between Madhya Pradesh, Centre

An extended monsoon in the state increased wheat acreage, leading to spiraling urea demand and a consequent war of words

By Jitendra
Published: Thursday 05 December 2019
Severe urea shortage leads to row between Madhya Pradesh, Centre
Photo: Agnimirh Basu Photo: Agnimirh Basu

An extreme shortage of urea in Madhya Pradesh (MP) has led to a war of words between the state and Union governments and claims of discrimination.

“The Union government has given us just 1.54 million metric tonnes (mmt) of urea, whereas we require 1.8 mmt,” the office of MP’s Minister of Agriculture, Sachin Yadav, said in a reply to Down To Earth (DTE). The minister himself was not available for comment.

“The Central government is punishing the opposition-led Congress government in the state,” the reply added.

However, the Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers refuted the allegation. “We have supplied the fertiliser requested by the state government,” Chhabilendra Roul, secretary at the ministry told DTE.

Social media and vernacular press have been awash in the last few days with videos and reports showing urea being distributed among desperate farmers, under the watchful eye of policemen.

Former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan also shared a video in which farmers were seen pushing and jostling with each other to get a sack of urea.

Due to the crisis, 80 per cent of the urea is being distributed by the state government through cooperative societies.

Monsoon and wheat

The primary reason for the shortage of urea has been an increase in the acreage of wheat in the state due to the extended monsoon.

The monsoon was delayed and stayed over most of Madhya Pradesh till early November, instead of September-end. It destroyed Kharif crops like Soyabean in the state.

Due to the availability of excess water, farmers were able to bring more land under wheat cultivation.

Consequently, wheat acreage soared. By November-end, wheat sowing in MP shot up by 8.5 per cent in comparison to the previous year.

In the 2019-20 Rabi season, wheat has been sowed on 3.72 million hectares (mha). This figure was 2.87 mha at the same time in 2018-19, 3 mha in 2017-18 and 3.4 mha in 2016-17.

Because urea’s nitrogen content is high and gets readily converted to ammonia in the soil, it is one of the most suitable nitrogenous fertilisers for wheat crops.

Meanwhile, as wheat acreage increased, that of pulses, which are traditionally rain-fed, declined.

The usual acreage of pulses including gram, lentils and peas in Madhya Pradesh is 4.44 mha. This year, till November-end, the acreage was reported to be 2.49 mha, down from 3.56 mha last year.

The gram (chana) cropping area sharply reduced to 1.93 mha in current season, from 2.82 mha the previous year. The lentil cropping acreage is 0.359 mha in the current season, down from 0.486 mha in 2018. The pea acreage is 0.17 mha, down from 0.21 mha the previous year.

“The state government was simply not able to foresee the increase in urea demand,” Ram Inania, a farmer leader based in Harda, told DTE

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