Push to direct supply of fertiliser

The ministry of fertilisers has asked the tea industry to examine the possibility of procuring muriate of potash directly to ensure that the gardens get the fertiliser on time.

At present, the gardens get the fertiliser through the distributors, which often leads to a delay in delivery.

The proposal, mooted at a recent meeting in Darjeeling, came in the wake of the problems faced by the industry last year because of the erratic supply of the fertiliser.

An industry official said the ministry has asked the tea industry to look into the matter, as there is no nodal agency in Assam, which wants to take up the responsibility of procuring the fertiliser.

The muriate of potash is a vital fertiliser for both the CTC and orthodox varieties of tea. It helps tea bushes to battle certain fungal infections and to improve the water content in the tea leaf. The India Potash Ltd (IPL) is the sole agency for the fertiliser and bulk mover of the product but does not have any stocking point in Assam and is supplied through the distributors.

“Supplies of the fertiliser did not reach on time last year and there were reports of unfair deals,” the official said.

He added that the ministry was ready to give a no-objection certificate if the tea industry wanted to take up the responsibility of procuring the fertiliser directly from the IPL, through its associations.

The tea industry is now discussing the proposal with its member gardens.

The requirement of fertilisers in the tea gardens of Assam is estimated at 40,000 tonnes a year.

“The scarcity of fertiliser had affected the gardens badly last year. The season has just started this year and hence ways and means have to be thought of to procure the fertiliser on time,” the official said. The shortage last year was attributed to the suspension of fresh imports by IPL because of the sharp rise in global prices and the inadequate coverage of the transportation costs under the freight reimbursement scheme.