Transporters shy away from ferrying Urea

By Our Staff Reporter
IMPHAL, May 18: Although the kharif season, particularly  paddy cultiva-tion season is almost here, the State Government has not yet procured the allocated quota of fertilizer for the season.
This is because no transporters came forward to transport fertilizers from Jiribam railway station to Imphal on NH-37.
Kharif season starts in June and usually, the fertilizers are procured starting from April. Except Manipur, all the other States have started procuring their allocated quotas of fertilizers since April, said sources.
The Central Government's Ministry of Chemi- cals and Fertilizers allocates the monthly quota as per demand of the States and it also decides the companies from where the fertilizers are to be procured.
The States then procure the fertilizers from the designated companies using transporters selected through tenders.
The State Agriculture Department floated an e-tender to select transporters, as done in previous years, but none applied.
The term of the previous tender/transporters ended on March 31, 2024.
While there are many reasons for the transporters not applying for the tender, sources said the transporters have complained about them making little to no profits.
The ongoing violent conflict besieging the State, frequent intimidation and attack on truckers along the highways in the hills, rampant extortion, armed outfits demanding "yearly taxes" in advance, dwindling number of transport vehicles, dilapidated conditions of road and lack of infrastructure at the railway platform to store fertilizers are some major reasons for transporters not applying for the tender.
Due to bad conditions of the highway in many parts, a fertilizer laden truck takes around 2/3 days to reach Imphal. If the condition of the road is good, it takes only a day, said sources.
While no transporters have applied for the tender, the fate of the farmers is further clouded by the Lok Sabha elections.
Due to the enforcement of election model code of conduct, the State Government's Finance Department has not yet released the funds needed for procuring the fertilizers for the year 2024.
Considering farmers' need for fertilizers, sources said the Government is speaking to the Election Commission of India seeking a special arrangement to procure the fertilizers urgently.
With the onset of the Kharif season in June, the demand for fertilizers is expected to rise among the farmers.
Usually, in previous years, the fertilizers were procured by the Agriculture Department in April-May before the onset of the Kharif season.
For Manipur, allocated subsidised fertilizers are brought from companies to Jiribam railway station, from where transporters would ferry them to Imphal in trucks.
Meanwhile, speaking to The Sangai Express, Agriculture Director N Gojendro said Agriculture Minister Th Biswajit and the department's top officers are already working on ensuring abundant availability of fertilizers to farmers.
He said the Agriculture Commissioner has been informed in writing about engaging private dealers to procure and distribute 1,300 MT of neem coated urea.
The Director also informed that the Agriculture Department is mulling the possibility of engaging the previous transporter to procure the fertilizers.
When approached, the transporter whose term expired on March 31 asked the department to raise the transport fare . The Minister has been informed about this and discussions are on, he said.
The Department is actively considering engaging private dealers, he added.
Agriculture Department's Assistant Fertilizer Officer, Sanatomba said that the department has around 1.5 lakh bags of Urea as buffer stock in its godown as against the annual requirement of four lakh bags.
The 1.5 lakh bags include fertilizers procured during the Rabi season, he added.
The fertilizers for the Kharif season are procured during April - July.
Most of the fertilizers the department procures are neem coated Mukta Urea from Brahmaputra Valley Fertilizer Corporation Limited in Namrup, Assam. The companies from where the fertilizers are to be procured are allocated and decided by the Ministry every month, he added.
While the actual cost of a 45 Kg urea bag is around Rs 450 including transportation charge, it is sold to farmers at a subsidised rate of Rs 266.8, Sanatomba said.