By Modnath Dhakal
Kathmandu, Sept. 2: Bangladesh has replied positively to Nepal’s request for the urgent supply of urea, a chemical fertiliser.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has urged his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina Wazed to help Nepal with the fertiliser supply as the country is reeling under its acute shortage at a time when the demand is at the peak.
The two prime ministers had a telephone conversation on Tuesday afternoon.
According to a tweet of PM Oli, the Bangladeshi PM had taken his request for the urgent supply of urea for this crop season positively.
He has sought Bangladesh’s support for 50,000 tonnes of urea to Nepal on refundable basis.
While sharing Nepal’s efforts for scaling up agricultural production, both for domestic consumption and export, he stated that Nepal can benefit from Bangladesh’s success story in the field of agriculture.
Shortage of chemical fertilisers has become a recurring problem in every crop season for the past several years. The country needs about 700,000 to 800,000 tonnes of fertilisers, but the government has been supplying only as much as 400,000 tonnes – half of the total demand, which has seriously affected the yield of major crops across the country.
Owing to the scarcity of the much needed fertilisers, farmers in the areas bordering with India have begun to smuggle it from across the border. The smuggling not only demands higher price of the urea but also increases the fear of coronavirus contagion during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, about 2,500 tonnes of urea that was stuck at the Kolkata Port in India for the last couple of months arrived in Birgunj last week and is dispatched to 19 different districts.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, about 71,500 tonnes of fertilisers being imported to distribute during this paddy plantation season has been stuck at Kolkata and Kandla Port in Gujrat.
Approximately 21,500 tonnes of urea inbound to Nepal, imported by the Salt Trading Company Limited, was stuck in Kandla for the past 3 to 4 months due to lockdown in Nepal and India. Likewise, 50,000 tonnes of urea imported by the Agriculture Inputs Company Limited is also stuck in Kolkata.
AICL said that it would take about three weeks to bring the 55,000 tonnes of fertilisers from Kolkata Port.
The MoAD was planning to distribute about 450,000 tonnes of fertilisers to the farmers at a subsidised rate of Rs. 700 for a 50 kg sack, but only 121,000 tonnes was in the transit. It means there will be a big gap between the demand and supply of the fertilisers.
The MoAD had issued an appeal on 17 August expressing its helplessness regarding the fertilisers import. “The ministry had a timely estimation of the fertilisers shortage and made a provision of additional budget for 120,000 tonnes of chemical fertilisers (70,000 tonnes urea and 50,000 tonnes of DAP),” it had said in the appeal.
Although the tender for fertilisers supply were announced by the AICL and STC in January, the coronavirus pandemic disturbed the transport and supply.
The MoAD had said that it was saddened at the plight of the farmers in the absence of fertilisers supply.
Talks on bilateral interests
During the conversation, the two Prime Ministers exchanged views on various matters of common interests, including cooperation in power generation, grid connectivity and power supply from Nepal to Bangladesh.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, promotion of barrier-free and balanced trade between the two countries, improved transit facility for Nepal through Bangladesh, enhanced connectivity and promotion of tourism were also the issues of discussion.
“We underlined the need for enhancing cooperation between our two countries on trade, energy and transit, among others,” tweeted the PM.
PM Oli thanked his Bangladeshi counterpart for providing a new railway route through Rohanpur (Bangladesh) to Singabad (India) railway line.
He extended congratulations to PM Hasina, the government and people of Bangladesh on the occasion of the birth centenary of Bangbandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The two Prime Ministers also exchanged experiences on the efforts made by their respective governments to fight against COVID-19 pandemic and agreed to strengthen cooperation to tackle the menace, said MoFA in a statement.
PM Oli thanked the Prime Minister of Bangladesh for the supply of 5,000 vials of Remdesivir injection and other essential medicines and medical logistics to Nepal.
– The Rising Nepal