Source: The post is based on the article “How to make Urea more efficient as a fertiliser, and why that’s needed” published in “The Indian express” on 14th August 2023.
Syllabus: GS3- Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies
News: This article discusses the introduction of ‘Urea Gold’ in India, a fertilizer fortified with sulphur. This new fertilizer improves nutrient efficiency and reduces the need for frequent applications. Despite the benefits of such fortified fertilizers, pricing and government subsidies remain challenges, preventing widespread adoption.
What is ‘Urea Gold’?
Introduction of ‘Urea Gold’:
‘Urea Gold’ is a new fertilizer launched by Indian Prime Minister and developed by Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers Ltd.
Composition and Benefits:
It’s made up of 37% Nitrogen and 17% sulphur.
This combination addresses the sulphur deficiency in Indian soils, particularly beneficial for oilseeds and pulses.
It offers a more gradual release of Nitrogen, ensuring plants remain green longer. This means farmers might need fewer applications, possibly using two bags instead of three for crops like paddy or wheat.
Why is Urea consumption a concern in India?
Rising Urea Consumption Trends:
Urea consumption in India has increased from 26.7 million tonnes in 2009-10 to 35.7 million tonnes in 2022-23. Despite measures like mandatory neem coating and reduced bag sizes, there’s been a noticeable uptrend in consumption since 2017-18.
Dependency on Imports:
Out of the 35.7 million tonnes consumed last fiscal year, 7.6 million tonnes were imported.
Even domestically-produced urea relies heavily on imported natural gas as its primary feedstock.
To highlight the magnitude, India’s annual urea consumption is second only to China, which consumes 51 million tonnes, primarily coal-based.
The Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) of urea in India is worrying. Only 35% of the Nitrogen applied through urea is actually used by crops. The remaining 65% is lost, either released as ammonia gas or leached into the ground as nitrate.
This efficiency has decreased from an estimated 48% in the 1960s. As a result, farmers apply more fertilizer for the same yield, leading to increased costs and potential environmental issues.
What should be done?
Adopt Fortification Solutions:
Instead of plain fertilizers, India should use those coated with secondary and micronutrients. This enhances nutrient efficiency and delivers crucial nutrients to crops.
Yara International’s ‘Procote Zn’, which coats urea with zinc oxide, is a prime example. It’s more effective than conventional methods. In Yara’s trials, paddy yields using ‘Procote Zn’ exceeded those with traditional zinc sulphate.
Address the Pricing Challenges:
The current government subsidies for fortified fertilizers aren’t incentivizing companies. They can charge only an additional Rs 24 for a 45-kg bag of zinc-coated urea.
Yara International, for instance, sells urea and ‘Procote Zn’ separately. Farmers pay Rs 254 for a 45-kg bag of urea and an extra Rs 530-550 for ‘Procote Zn’. This combined price is slightly more than using traditional zinc sulphate.
Streamline Production and Pricing:
To ensure even nutrient distribution, coating should occur at factories. This will also ease the farmers’ work, eliminating the need for them to mix nutrients.
The government might consider revising the pricing structure. This could involve deregulating prices for fortified fertilizers while ensuring base products remain affordable.