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India set to be self-sufficient in urea by 2025 with six new plants


Union Fertiliser Minister Mansukh Mandaviya some days ago hoped India would eliminate urea import by 2025 through the increased domestic production and enhanced use of nano urea, which cuts the consumption of traditional urea by as much as 30 per cent.

But trade and industry sources said even without support from nano, India was on course to achieving near self-sufficiency in urea in the next few years.

This optimism rests on the commissioning of six new conventional urea plants, each with an annual production capacity of about 1.3 million tonnes.

Of these, the Barauni and Sindri plants will be commissioned by September, and the others in the next three-four years.

Once all these public sector urea plants start functioning, India’s domestic urea output will rise by 7.8-8 million tonnes.

This, when added to the existing production of 25 million tonnes per annum, will take the annual availability of fertilisers to almost 33 million tonnes.

India consumes around 35 million tonnes of urea at present.

Hence, dependence on imports will automatically go down to 1-3 million tonnes a year as against the current 7-9 million tonnes.

“This will not only make us almost self-sufficient in urea but also lower the requirement of floating open global tenders to import urea each year, which sometimes leads to cartelisation among global players to India’s detriment,” a senior industry official said.

He said once India became a marginal urea importer in the global market, a lot of problems associated with rising international rates would go.

“On top of all these, the Central government is signing long-term contracts with countries such as Oman for about 1 million tonnes of urea a year. This should further eliminate the need for big imports,” the official said.

Nano plan

The commercial production of nano urea started on August 1, 2021, and the producers were Iffco and Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers (RCF).

After that, a plan was drawn up to increase nano urea output in eight plants of Iffco and RCF in various phases starting August 2021. Those together will produce around 440 million bottles of 500-ml nano urea. This will be equivalent to around 20 million tonnes of urea.

Since the launch of nano urea, the government has dispatched some 39 million bottles to be sold at outlets of Iffco and RCF. Of that around 28.7 million bottles have been sold.

This is equivalent to around 1.3 million tonnes of conventional urea.

According to a ministry official, the government will save foreign exchange of about Rs 40,000 crore a year due to a reduction in imports.

Nano urea’s application can lead to a reduction in soil, water and air pollution caused by the overuse of chemical fertilisers.

At present, the nano urea capacity is 50 million bottles per year.

Cooperative major Iffco has introduced innovative nano urea in the market. Commercial production started on August 1, 2021, at its Kalol unit in Gujarat.

Seven more nano urea plants are being set up by Iffco as well as RCF and National Fertilizers. Iffco transferred nano urea technology to these two public sector undertakings free of cost.

It is estimated that by using nano urea, farmer income will increase by an average of Rs 4,000 per acre.

Private sector in wait-and-watch mode

Nano urea being a patented product, private companies will have to get the licence to produce it in their plants.

However, industry players said they wanted to assess its effectiveness and cost before doing large-scale production and sales through their channels.

Several private players said nano urea was essentially suitable for foliar application (that is, from the top through a sprayer on the leaves), while conventional urea was applied at the roots of the plants. Therefore, it needs to be closely analysed.

“Urea is usually applied three times on a plant. While the first dose is delivered on the soil when the plant has not germinated, the second and third doses are applied when the plant grows. In the case of nano urea, as it is meant for foliar application, the first dose isn’t possible while the second and third doses are. Therefore, it needs to see how the product behaves in farmers’ fields,” the official said.




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