What price subsidies?

Published: Sunday 31 October 1993

-- The removal of subsidies on phosphatic and potash fertilisers this year has led to an almost three-fold price increase and a sharp drop in their consumption, according to the annual review of the Fertiliser Association of India. Warns an association spokesperson, "If the trend continues, the yield and quality of crops are bound to fall."

Compared to 1992, phosphate fertiliser use dropped 25 per cent in the north zone and potash fertiliser consumption plummeted by 73 per cent. According to the report, for the first time in two decades there has been a drop (3.7 per cent) in the consumption of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium fertilisers taken together.

Reduced fertiliser use can affect crop quality and yield suffer because lack of phosphorous inhibits root development and also adversely affects grain formation, especially in wheat, pulses and oilseeds. Potash deficiency can harm cotton and horticulture crops.

However, for those concerned with the overuse of fertilisers, there is nothing to celebrate. The net drop in fertiliser consumption is much less than the drop in potash and phosphorous fertilisers, indicating a spurt in the use of nitrogenous fertilisers. Thus, say agronomists, while the environment has not gained, crop yields are set to suffer.

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