Agriculture Minister Abdur Razzaque has played down concerns over food security prompted by the government's decision to raise the prices of urea fertiliser amid the Aman rice cultivation season.
The move drew fierce criticism from opposition parties, but Razzaque believes the country's agricultural production will not be affected by the price hike.
The minister highlighted the use of non-urea fertilisers, such as TSP, DAP and MOP which have an annual demand of more than 3.2 million tonnes and said their prices have remained unchanged.
All of these fertilisers are imported, he said, but their prices have remained unchanged despite a four-fold increase in the international market.
"Therefore, an increase in the prices of the urea fertiliser by Tk 6 per kg will not harm crop production. Balanced use of urea will not increase production costs for farmers,” he told reporters on Thursday.
On Aug 1, the Ministry of Agriculture announced its decision to raise the prices of urea from Tk 16 to Tk 22 for farmers and from Tk 14 to Tk 20 at the dealership level, citing the increase in prices in the global market.
Razzaque addressed the criticism levelled by the BNP and other political parties as he explained the rationale behind the decision.
"We note that the BNP, along with some leftist parties, have expressed concern over the increase in fertiliser prices. I think the BNP's concern about fertiliser is proof once again of their utter shamelessness. During the BNP regime, there was an acute shortage of agricultural inputs, including fertiliser, in the country.”
Razzaque stressed the need to moderate the use of urea, the most widely-used agricultural input in the country while focussing on other fertilisers to increase production.
“A balanced application of fertilisers is very important. We can reduce the use of urea by at least 20 percent and still keep its application at a reasonable level."
To reduce dependence on urea and increase output at the same time, the price of DAP fertiliser was slashed from Tk 16 to Tk 25 in 2019, the minister said.
”This initiative has led to a two-fold increase in the use of DAP fertilisers in the last few years. In 2019, the demand for DAP used to be 800,000 tonnes. Currently, 1.6 million tonnes are being used.”
However, Razzaque acknowledged that the government's emphasis on the DAP fertiliser did not bring down the use of urea. "We also have some shortcomings in this regard. We could not convince the farmers [to make the switch to DAP].”
The minister gave assurances that there will not be any food crisis, pointing out that the country has sufficient fertiliser stock.