Chhimi Dema 

Farmers in the country for the past year have been facing a shortage of fertilisers. With the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the crisis is expected to deepen.

According to fertiliser agents in the country, the supply of fertilisers has reduced from about 20 trucks in a year before to one or two today.

Dorji Gyaltshen, a fertiliser agent in Lobesa, said that it has been almost a year without sufficient fertiliser supply from Phuentsholing.

“Farmers say that the yield is poor without the fertilisers,” he said.

He supplies urea and sulphur 80 WDG to the farmers.

Before, a sack of urea (45kg) cost Nu 895 and 50 kg of sulphur 80 WDG, Nu 1876. Today, the cost of sulphur 80 WDG has increased to Nu 3,016.

Pema, a farmer in Punakha, said that if they don’t use fertiliser then the crop yield is poor. “Mixing manure and fertilisers give better yield.”

It has become difficult to get fertilisers now, she said adding that the price has increased as well. “With poor yield, our income is greatly affected,” Pema said.

A fertiliser agent in Thimphu said that the supply of fertilisers has decreased from 20 trucks (each truck carries 1 metric tonne of different fertilisers) in a year to one last year.

Urea has been out of stock for 11 months now, she said. “The demand for fertiliser from farmers is high but supply is less. Preference for local fertiliser is low because it is expensive.”

Russia was the world’s top exporter of fertiliser in 2019, according to data from the Observatory of Economic Complexity, when Russia’s fertiliser export value stood at USD 8.85 billion.

International news reports state that the soaring cost of fertilisers, and other key agricultural commodities, could have knock-on effects throughout the world. “The high prices might lead to severe bottlenecks, severely reducing agricultural production and aggravating what economists have already designated as a global food crisis.”

On a small scale, the Organic Flagship Programme has been producing organic fertilisers in the country. But its cost and poor marketing strategy have become challenges.

The Organic Flagship Programme was started to commercialise the production of organic commodities and promote its value chain and create access and availability to organic farm inputs.

The Nu 1 billion flagship programme focuses on the production of bio-inputs such as organic and bio-fertilisers, bio-pesticides, organic seeds, fingerlings and trout feed. It targets private and foreign direct investment in production of bio-fertiliser and pesticides.

Officials from the National Soil Centre Services said that 2,806 metric tonnes (MT) of organic fertilisers were produced annually with farming households producing 30,000MT of farmyard manure or compost.

The official said that calculating based on the country’s average chemical fertiliser imported annually (3,321 metric tonnes), Bhutan requires approximately 132,480MT of organic fertilisers.

Since there is no proper marketing and distribution system in place, the official said, the producers are not able to market their product efficiently. “The centre is currently developing a strategic action plan on fertilisers for both synthetic and organic to address some of the issues pertaining to fertiliser production and marketing.”

The centre in the past two years, distributed 113MT of organic fertilisers to 12 dzongkhags to promote and encourage farmers to use organic fertilisers and grow safe food.

Under the flagship programme, 12 small, three medium and two large scale organic fertiliser production units were established.

A total of 130 bio-digesters–a system utilising organic waste such as animal excreta, to produce fertiliser­–in the dzongkhags produce 171MT of liquid fertilisers.

Farm Machinery Corporation Limited and B&B Korea Corporation Limited established the country’s first bio-fertilizer plant in Athang gewog, Wangdue and production will begin from July this year.

The plant will produce 432MT of bio-fertiliser annually.