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Editorial: Ensure smooth fertilizer supply

Editorial: Ensure smooth fertilizer supply
Farmers across the country are busy planting winter crops, and they are in desperate need of fertilizer. It is a problem that rears its head every six months, but the government has failed to address it. Nepal needs 700,000 metric tons of fertilizer annually; only half of that is reaching the farmers. The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock should be held responsible for this, as it has consistently failed to procure enough fertilizer on time. Squeezed by the shortage, farmers are turning to black market in order to dress their fields with vital nutrients needed for their crops. In some places, there have been reports about big farmers with political connections hoarding fertilizer.

Further, when the government calls a tender for fertilizer import, it is often the case that businesses with close nexus with politicians get the contract. And if they fail to make the import on time, they go unpunished. Political leaders are also responsible for perpetuating the fertilizer crisis.

Nepal’s agricultural output is already going down due to climate change-related weather events. Chronic fertilizer shortage is making matters worse. This double-whammy situation has contributed to ballooning import bills for agricultural products from India and other countries. Severely lopsided balance of trade has already triggered an economic crisis in Nepal. Yet, the government and leaders are silent. They have refused to learn a lesson from Sri Lanka on how low agricultural productivity can impact the economy. Our top politicians, including the prime minister, should treat fertilizer shortage as a national problem and take the necessary measures accordingly. If they continue to remain idle, Nepal could soon face food insecurity. Nepal is heavily reliant on India to meet its demand for food grains. But lately, India too is under stress to ensure its own food security, particularly in the aftermath of the Russia-Ukraine war, which has severely upset the global supply chain. Given the grim scenario, the main job of the government should be to enhance food productivity at home. But Nepal seems to be headed in the opposite direction. Experts suggest that the only way to ensure fertilizer security in Nepal is to set up a factory within the country. But this will cost time and money. The stopgap solution will be to hold talks with the Indian government. Shortage of fertilizer has multiple effects, from the economy to food security. The government and leaders should take note.