January 18, 2022, Tuesday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Government spends much in chemical fertilizers

Priority should shift to bio-fertiliser

The Nepal Weekly
December 21, 2021

A recent news on purchasing fertilisers for the country has once again drew attention to discuss on bio-fertilisers which can be produced by bio-gas technology using mainly waste materials.

The news was that the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD) has demanded additional Rs. 13.5 billion from the Ministry of Finance (MOF) to purchase chemical fertiliser as the previously allocated budget has become inadequate.

The government had allocated Rs. 15 billion to purchase the chemical fertiliser in the Fiscal Year 2021/22. The allotted amount fell short to meet the current demand, so that the NoALD asked for an additional Rs. 13.48 billion. This was also mentioned that only 250 thousand metric tons can be purchased for Rs. 15 billion at the current international market price while there is a demand for an additional 130 thousand metric tons. That means, the budget presently allocated for purchasing the fertiliser even fell short to buy 250 thousand metric tons and the MoF has already provided a billion rupees.

Researches, studies and experiences claim that chemical fertiliser degrade soil health and nutrient value in it. Even then the country has been putting efforts on use of chemical fertilisers spending billions of rupees every year in importing it. To make chemical fertilisers available in cheap price the government provides billions of rupees per year as subsidy as well.

On the other hand, environment activists and health experts have been advocating for promotion of bio-fertilisers to promote which could reduce use of chemical fertilisers. That also support bio-fertilisers productions in the country generating utilising wastes of animal, agriculture and forests, employment generation and reduce import bill.

Bio-fertilisers is a substance which contains living micro-organisms which, when applied to seeds, plant surfaces, or soil, colonize the rhizosphere or the interior of the plant and promotes growth by increasing the supply or availability of primary nutrients to the host plant. Bio-fertilisers add nutrients through the natural processes of nitrogen fixation, solubilizing phosphorus, and stimulating plant growth through the synthesis of growth-promoting substances. The micro-organisms in bio-fertilisers restore the soil’s natural nutrient cycle and build soil organic matter. Through the use of bio-fertilisers, healthy plants can be grown, while enhancing the sustainability and the health of the soil. Bio-fertilisers can be expected to reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, but they are not yet able to replace their use. Since they play several roles, a preferred scientific term for such beneficial bacteria is plant-growth promoting rhizobacteria

Organic fertilisers are produced locally by recycling agricultural waste and animal waste. In hilly farms, compost and farm yard manure are the traditional source of fertilise. The slurry come out as waste from bio-gas plants are very good fertilisers with good nitrogen content. 

Bio-gas plants of domestic size installed nearly 450,000 so far are one of the producers of bio-fertilisers as ‘slurry’ as bi-product besides gas for kitchen. Likewise, plants to manage municipal waste also produce bio-fertiliser good for farmers. The large bio-gas plants of 3,000 or 4,000 cubic meters or even larger are showing big hopes on producing bio-fertiliser at large scale. The quality and efficiency of the bio-fertilisers produced are said to almost equal to chemical fertiliser. Adding bio-char make bio-fertiliser more efficient. As such, Government may be advised to consider on speeding promoting production of bio-fertiliser. Research and study on impact of recovering soil quality by using bio-fertiliser will be a rewarding achievement. The agricultural products are good for human health as well as part of its contribution relates to reduce climate change effects.

Remarkably, some 450 such units 4,000 MT capacity Large Bio-gas Plants will need for the country to check import of 900,000 MT of chemical fertiliser. Likewise, development of large size livestock farms will be needed to produce inputs for the Large Bio-gas Plants. These activities will certainly contribute to socio-economic impact including creation of employment opportunities. Moreover, one such large bio-gas plant to construct in every municipality and rural municipality may be a wider idea to implement.

However, larger bio-gas plant entrepreneurs are having hard time in selling bio-fertilisers. They are waiting for entrepreneur friendly policy and regulations to support their production and marketing systems. Subsidy support in sales promotion of bio-fertilisers they produce is one of the expectations.   

A few years back the Government of Nepal formed a high level committee to promote bio-fertiliser in Nepal. The committee was said to develop and promote bio-fertiliser for agricultural activities. Therefore Nepal, keeping in view multiple benefits, has still time to consider on bio-fertiliser to promote and produce instead of prioritising establishment of chemical fertiliser. However, intensive research and studies on bio-fertilisers producing technology, market systems, government supports and motivation and awareness to farmers will sure to pay back better. Involvement of rural municipalities and municipalities as stated above in collaborating with private sector will also bring desirable results.