Fertilizers procurement down 26.4% in first two months of Rabi season

As Pakistan is already facing the challenge of food inflation, a latest report has revealed that the offtake of fertilizers declined by 26.4 percent during the first two months of the current Rabi season when compared with the last year.

It is an alarming trend as the devastating floods meant that the country would a reduced area under cultivation and the further reduced consumption of fertilizers could mean less production as farmers are unable to keep up with the inflation rate.

The findings come at a time when the flour prices in Pakistan have already reached a historic high with at least four months remaining before the wheat harvesting.

However, the monthly report prepared by the National Fertilizer Development Company (NDFC) did not elaborate whether there has been any reduction in per acre use as the document solely focuses on overall picture.

The report, which covered the months of October and November, says nitrogen, phosphate, and potash offtake was down by 15.7 percent, 45.9 percent and 87.6 percent respectively.

Similarly, the procurement of urea witnessed a 6.9 percent decline with the corresponding figures for DAP stood at 45.2 percent.

According to NFDC, the total nutrient offtake during November 2022 was about 483,000 tonnes, which recorded an increase of 2.1 percent over November 2020. Of this, nitrogen offtake increased by 3.6 percent and by 3.8 percent for phosphate. On the other hand, potash offtake decreased by 92.3 percent as compared to November 2021.

Product-wise, urea offtake was up by 1.6 percent and the DAP procurement showed an improvement by 7.5 percent over November 2021.

Total production of all fertilizer products during November 2022 was 672,000 tonnes out which urea was 447,000 tonnes.

Skyrocketing flour prices

Wheat flour is the staple food in Pakistan but its price has reached the highest level in the country’s history with the low-income groups finding it hard to meet the minimum nutritional needs, which will long-term negative effects on health.

The rising flour prices show a complete failure of the provincial governments to control the trend for whatever reasons may be as inflation has stretched the people to their limits.

After the 18th Amendment, the provinces are responsible for ensuring price control as the agriculture too was listed as a provincial subject. 

In Karachi, the price stands at any between Rs120 to Rs150 per kg, which means a five-kg bag is available from of Rs600 to Rs750.

However, the flour is little cheaper – Rs80 per kg – a price tag not affordable for many who, for the first time in life, are now forced to reduce the staple food’s intake, which can have devastating effects on health in the future.

But in Peshawar, one kilogramme flour is available for Rs175. It means the price of eight-kg bag of flour is Rs1,500 while a 20-kg bag costs Rs2,700.

As a result, tandoors in Karachi and Lahore are charging Rs18 for a roti and Rs25 for a naan while the rates in Peshawar range between Rs20 to Rs40.

One must remember that the per person protein consumption in Pakistan is already very low and this reduction in carbohydrate intake will only multiply the issue.

Market surveys have already revealed that the meat – mutton and beef – consumption is already on the further decline since 2018.

In this connection, a shop owner said those from the low-income groups had reduced buying meat by at least 40 percent.

On the other hand, the skyrocketing prices of chicken [also eggs] mean that cheapest form of meat is also now out of reach for the majority.

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