Tilling and Toiling
The cultivation process requires fertilizers to be applied in two separate applications, the first by late July. Late summer is the early tillering period, which aids which growth and protects against diseases, then during September, a further top dressing is required. If the second application is delayed for any reason, beyond 40 days after the initial application, it’s highly likely to lead to crop damage. Simply if the fertilisers are not applied in a timely matter, is sufficient to impact the size and quality of the grains produced. Some measures point to crop yields reduced by half is the optimal timetable is not followed.
Unfortunately, six months after the pandemic began, fertiliser shortages remain, even though the Government has allocated a 10% increase in the budge. Once the government has allocated nearly 10 billion rupees. The purchase of fertilizers, a 10% increase over last year's budget allocation. However, the tender process whilst a prudent approach in ensuring good pricing, does take some weeks, if not months to complete before supplies are ultimately rendered.
Building national inventories, or stores, as many countries are in the process of doing with other goods such as grains is one means of managing these shortages, whilst being able to take advantage of natural fluctuations in input prices.
Reserves could be released in times like this. The supply chain under normal circumstances functions well enough; Krishi samagra Company Limited, and the sole Trading Corporation Limited are the public entities primarily responsible for fertilizer input procurement for the country. Unfortunately, when shortages do occur, it incentivizes the illegal smuggling of subsidized chemical fertilizers from India. Whilst the Government has sought to crack down on such activities, it is understandable, when farmers remain in dire need of additional supplies fertiliser shortages. Lower production yields ultimately have inflationary consequences, where low production lower yields lead to higher import bills. Food inflation hit those with lower incomes disproportionately harder than those that would be considered more affluent.
We have been active in supplying fertilisers to countries which are heavily reliant on domestic agriculture for domestic consumption. This is just another example of why food security is such a hot button topicglobally, and the consequences of COVID-19 have brought them into sharp focus. Nepal and its heavy reliance on rice production is acutely sensitive to supply chain difficulties, specifically those which prevent vital agri-inputs from reaching farmers. The monsoon didn’t disappoint this year, nor did the return of the migrant labour which typically returns to support the transplanting season, however access to basic inputs did.