India. Fertiliser sales drop 6 times due to cash crunch, wheat harvest likely to be hit

The government's decision to allow old currency notes for buying and selling of seeds ensured that sowing of Rabi crops in western UP did not fall below 10% compared to last year, but demonetisation has hit sale of fertilizers hard. According to officials, the sale of fertilisers in the region has dropped nearly six times compared to last year since old notes cannot be used to buy them. Many farmers sowed their crops on time but without the use of fertilisers. This drop, officials said, will severely impact the yield from Rabi crops.
Wheat is the predominant Rabi crop in the region as well as the rest of north India, and fertilisers play a critical role during the period immediately before sowing and up to a few weeks after sowing, when wheat seeds germinate the fastest and require the most amount of nutrients. According to norms by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in Indian conditions, an area of approximately 1.4 hectares, expected to produce 4.6 tonnes of wheat, needs nitrogen-supplementing fertilisers equivalent to 128 tonnes at the very least, in addition to other macro and micro nutrients.
"Everybody has been looking at the wrong figures so far. Sowing of seeds itself has not been compromised that much, because the government has allowed the use of old notes for farmers to buy seeds in the market. However, the impact of demonetisation on the sale of fertilisers has been severe. In Bulandshahr district alone, the sale of fertilizers has dipped to about six times. I asked for data from other districts in western UP and the situation is almost exactly the same everywhere," a senior district official in Bulandshahr told TOI.
The official added, "The most commonly used fertiliser by wheat farmers is di-ammonium phosphate (DAP), which has to be used at the time of sowing. DAP is mixed with the soil before the seeds are planted in the ground. Many farmers were desperate to start the sowing process so they decided to go ahead without using fertiliser. This will also impact the yield from the crop this year."
Another official said, "While fertiliser purchase is allowed on credit, farmers have to pay it using kisan credit cards, which have a limit of Rs 80,000, which most farmers have already exceeded. Also,they have to repay credit in cash, which they are doing in demonetised notes, which is not permitted now."
The impact of demonetisation on sowing, while not "significant", has also been felt. Jasvir Singh, Meerut district agriculture officer, said, "There has only been about a 10% drop in sowing compared to last year. There were some problems in the first week of demonetisation but after the government announced that farmers could use old notes to buy seeds, things picked up again."
Vinod Jatoli, a wheat farmer in Meerut, said, "By this time of year, I usually buy around 10 kg of DAP. This year, however, I have only been able to buy 2 kg. I was lucky that I had some cash at hand. Some of my friends had to use leftover fertiliser from last year but it was not enough. Others have not been so lucky."

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