ISLAMABAD: Farmers have sought an early framing of a formula for releasing fertiliser subsidy amounting to Rs20 billion announced in the budget for 2015-16 to stave off the threat of the facility remaining unutilised as happened last year.
Representatives of the farmers drew attention to the subject during a meeting of the Fertiliser Review Committee held at the Ministry of Industries and Production a few days ago.
They voiced the apprehension that the Rs20-billion subsidy on fertiliser purchases could remain unspent if timely steps were not taken to come up with a workable formula to implement the programme in a true manner.
Last year, the government had announced a fertiliser subsidy of Rs14 billion, but it could not be utilised by the end of the year because of failure of the government and fertiliser companies to devise a plan for the release and consumption of the subsidy.
The bone of contention was that the government and farmers insisted that the price of urea must be printed on the bag to avoid the threat of overcharging the consumers, but fertiliser manufacturers argued that it was not possible for them to print the price because of frequent changes in the currency exchange rate.
The three stakeholders held a series of meetings to resolve the issue, but they could not reach a consensus. As a result, not a rupee could be released for subsidising the purchase of fertiliser.
“We don’t want to repeat the mistake and we want an early resolution of the matter,” said a member of the Kisan Ittehad Council. “We have taken up the issue at the highest level so that the benefit of subsidy could be taken timely.”
Talking to The Express Tribune, Ministry of National Food Security and Research Secretary Sirat Asghar said this year the government had decided to import di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) and provide subsidy on it to the farmers in an effort to implement the plan in a smooth way.
He stressed that the government was importing and subsidising DAP, instead of urea, because the former was much suitable for improving the productivity of crops, which would benefit the farmers and the nation alike.
The ministry was fully vigilant and had already written a letter to the ministries of commerce and finance, he said, adding a meeting with the ministries concerned, representatives of farmers and fertiliser importers and manufacturers would be held soon to come up with a solution.
Pointing to the unspent subsidy last year, the secretary blamed it on some technical complications with the fertiliser manufacturers. “This time, however, we are fully prepared to develop a workable formula for the subsidy without wasting any time,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2015.
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