Our Correspondent / New Delhi
Union agricultural ministry is contemplating with idea to provide subsidy to fertiliser firms for setting up soil testing facilities at retail outlets. The proposal has been sent to department of fertilisers to seek views from companies and other stakeholders.
In 2016-17 Budget, finance minister Arun Jaitley announced setting up of 2,000 model retail outlets, which were supposed to offer soil and seed testing facilities to farmers in order to provide extensive information about nutrient level of the soil, enabling judicious use of fertilisers.
“The ministry of agriculture has prepared a proposal to offer subsidy to fertiliser firms to set up soil testing labs at their retail outlets, which will ensure that farmers may get to know about the soil quality and hence pick the right variety of soil nutrient for their land. If the total cost of setting up a soil testing lab comes at around Rs.86,000, then 44% of the cost (approximately Rs.44,000) will be borne by the government,” said a senior government official, requesting anonymity.
Another official, who did not wished to be named, said that the proposal has been sent to department of fertilisers to seek views from companies and other stakeholders.
“We will send the proposal to the fertiliser firms to seek their views, after which the agriculture ministry may seek Cabinet’s nod for the same,” the second official quoted above said.
According to a senior government official, a total of 1,600 retail shops have been opened by various fertiliser companies as on date. However, seed and soil testing facilities are not in place.
In an attempt to promote balanced use of fertilisers, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government last year in July and December also announced reduction in prices of diammonium phosphate and muriate of potash by Rs.2,500 per tonne and Rs.5,000 per tonne, respectively.
Farmers tend to overuse urea, the most commonly used fertiliser, as it is sold at a controlled price of Rs.5,360 per tonne.
This comes in the backdrop of government’s efforts towards reducing subsidies, especially related to petroleum products.
Also, the government has introduced direct benefit transfer in fertiliser sector on a pilot basis in few districts across the country with a view to improve the quality of service delivery to farmers. Budget 2017-18 made a provision of Rs.240,339 crore towards various subsidy payments, with Rs.70,000 crore being allocated for fertiliser subsidy.