Current Status of the Fertilizer Industry In India - Policy Environment and Implications for the future



Mounting pressure of subsidy on fiscal deficit of the country has compelled Government of India to take a decision to gradually withdraw the subsidy, heading towards total decontrol in a phased manner. A long term policy for fertilizer sector is under consideration, covering the problems of feedstock, fertilizer pricing, total decontrol, WTO related issues etc. The present policy environment is not investment friendly and viability of several existing units will also be adversely affected. A switch over in feedstock from naphtha to LNG for urea is contemplated, however, its availability and price is still uncertain. High energy cost do not permit further expansions in urea capacity within the country, joint ventures abroad are likely to be developed. ------------1.0 Introduction Economic liberalisation and reforms are the two key notes of the Government's political philosophy today which has embraced almost all sectors of the economy. Even in the case of the fertilizer sector, an

attempt to introduce liberalisation has been made since August 1992. It is obvious that the fertilizer sector has to fall in line with the rest of the economy and a total decontrol would therefore have to be ultimate goal for this sector. In 1992, with a view to reducing the subsidy, all the

Consequently the prices of these fertilizers increased sharply leading to fall in their consumption and distorting the ratio of fertilizer consumption. To review the existing system of subsidisation of urea and suggest an alternative broad-based scientific and transparent methodology a High Powered Fertilizer Pricing Policy Review Committee (HPC) under the Chairmanship of Professor C. The retention pricing scheme (RPS) which was introduced in 1977 thus got confined to urea only. uniform administered price and market oriented system.H. The Committee has explored a number of options for determining producer price such as the existing RPS with some modification.phosphatic and potassic fertilizers were decontrolled.0 Draft Long Term Fertilizer Policy The proposed Long Term Fertilizer Policy has chalked out a three phased programme starting 2000-01 to 2006-07 with definite actions to be performed in each phase as listed below. GOI proposes to decontrol fertilizers completely by 2. group retention price. Government of India is drawing a long term policy for fertilizer industry which is to ensure that the transition to total decontrol is achieved in a phased manner. The nineties remained a decade of uncertain policies. Hanumantha Rao. was set up. Phase 1: 2000-01 and 2001-02 (A) Removal of Aberrations and Deficiencies i) Reassessment of capacity and modulation of off take depending on demand ii) Increase in the price of urea at regular intervals iii) Improvement in the implementation of the concession scheme (B) Initiation of New Measures i) The problem of feedstock 1 . 2006.

O.III (2004-05 . Implications 2 .ii) Feasibility of a coal based technology iii) Joint Ventures iv) Decision on fertilizer pricing policy v) Policy towards creation of new capacity vi) WTO related matters vii) Removal of distribution controls on urea viii) Extension of concession scheme to bio fertilizers Phase II (2002-03 .2006-07) i) Withdrawal of MRP and Concession scheme ii) Role of Government in decontrol scenario iii) Policy relating to LNG 3.0 W.2003-04) i) Final decision on feed back ii) Creation of new capacities long term perspective iii) Decision on degree of protection to indigenous industry iv)New initiatives a) Role of the regulator b) Extension of concession scheme to urea c) Removal of MRP d) Emphasis on productive investment e) Change in the relationship between industry and the farmers f) Balanced fertilizer use g) Eco-friendly fertilizer use h) Creation of Fertilizer Policy Planning Board Phase . T.

Domestic production of nitrogenous fertilizers was 11. Under the TRQ regime. In other words they can import any quantity without any restriction. provide the flexibility in importing a certain critical quantity at a lower duty. However. STC and IPL. 4.0 Implications for Future 4. retaining the basic custom duty of five per cent for the year 2001-02.760 million tons of P2O5 in year 2000-2001. there is no bond rate of duty on urea and Government can impose a higher tariff say 150-200 per cent in future.004 million tons in 2000-2001. The W. it is proposed to allow imports of a specific quantity at the existing rate of five per cent custom duty and quantities beyond at higher custom duty. The proposal to institute a tariff rate quota (TRQ) for urea imports has been put on hold for the time being. 2001. though it has been mentioned that the designated parastatals would have to function henceforth on 'Commercial Principles' in accordance with Article XVII of GATT. There will be a bond rate of 5 per cent custom duty on import of DAP and MOP.1 Production of Fertilizers India has become third largest country with a total capacity of 11. Further capacity addition for N has now been stalled for the time being due to very narrow demand supply gap at present and costly feed stock.70 3 . The TRQ option will therefore.T. whereas production of phosphatic fertilizers was 4. At present. The exim policy has continued with this arrangement.Quantitative restrictions on import of fertilizers have been removed since April 1. there will be some addition to the phosphatic capacity. Urea imports have been canalised through MMTC. But pegging the duty at such levels may not be appropriate because imports of urea thus will become costly to meet the demand-supply gap which is likely to increase in future.07 million tons of N and 3.O related issues are under detailed examination by the Government.

769 8.004 P 2.748 New Capacity building for production of urea will now take place where the natural gas is available in abundance and at low price.948 3.924 2.068 Production P 2.058 3. production of 1. Table-1 Capacity and Production of N and P Fertilizers in India (000 tons) Year 1995-96 1996-97 1997-98 1998-99 1999-2000 2000-2001 Capacity N 8.181 3. The financial closure could take effect in October 2001 and the The entire commercial production will begin 36 months after that. Government is keen on implementation of Indo-Oman Fertilizer Project.593 10.571 11.748 3. The increase in production of total N is observed due to increase in production of DAP and other complexes which also have 'N'.206 3.165 3.987 10.65 million tons per annum of urea from this project will be purchased by India on long term basis. during 2000-01 restrictions were imposed on capacity utilisation of Urea at 92% as a consequence the production of urea declined.068 11.998 9.477 10.2 Production of Urea and DAP in India (000 tons) Year 1995-96 4 Urea 15.593 2. However.083 10. Production of DAP during 2000-01 was 10 % higher compared to previous year. which are marginal higher compared to last year production.748 N 8.578 3. The capacity utilisation for P2O5 fertilizers was cent per cent (Table 2). Table .805 DAP 2.873 11.407 3.645 .million tons (Table-1).332 9. All India capacity utilization has gradually improved over the years and was maintained at almost cent per cent level for N.

292 19.594 19.665 3.1996-97 1997-98 1998-99 1999-2000 2000-2001 4.3 Investment in Fertilizer Industry Fertilizer production is capital intensive and presently the cost of production of indigenous material is high and returns on investment are low.389 556 533 68 2. witnessed decline in the growth rate during the nineties. Already there is a huge stock of urea.475 475 1. No multinational has invested in fertilizer sector in India. In the recent past.2 Imports of Fertilizers 15.1999-2000 (000 tons) Year Urea MOP DAP 1. 2000 decided that no new 5 .536 2. There has been no imports of urea during 2000-01. India is presently self sufficient in respect of urea.864 3.579 2.888 Imports of urea has declined substantially during the past five years (Table 3). around 2.3 Imports of Fertilizers : 1995-96 . 2001.268 844 1995-96 1996-97 1997-98 1998-99 1999-2000 2000-2001 3.628 18. Table. Due to sufficient indigenous capacity and low international prices of urea the Government of India in Feb.807 19.765 3.450 4.380 2. The Indian fertilizer industry which achieved phenomenal growth in eighties.091 3.782 2.5 million tons as on march 31.356 110 2.946 2.328 2. the fertilizer industry has not attracted any significant investment. Therefore there will be no need for any further stock building during next six months.734 2.861 4.

a major urea producer in the country is underway. The Fertilizer Corporation of India Limited (FCI). it is completely dependent on import of either rock phosphate or phos acid or DAP.grassroots projects will be allowed during the next three years in either public. Jordan and Morocco some more projects and expansions are being contemplated by the Indian companies. As India does not have potential rock phosphate reserve. It is heartening to note that apart from the operating joint venture plants for phosphoric acid in Senegal. Pyrites. Projects & Development India Limited (PDIL). So even if the Government reviews its decision. Government is also considering disinvestment of its equity of public sector fertilizer units upto 51 per cent or even more. There has been new capacity addition by way of importing rock phosphate and converting it to phos acid and then to DAP/NPK or conversion of phos acid at rock phosphate mines abroad in JV and importing phosphoric acid for further conversion to DAP/NPK. due to abundant availability of gas. Lack of availability of natural gas in the country has prompted investors to collaborate for joint ventures abroad for urea production. The disinvestment in National Fertilizer Limited (NFL). 6 . Phosphates & Chemicals Limited (PPCL) were declared sick. Gulf countries. the earliest a project could start would be by 2004-05. handing over the management control of the company to a strategic buyer. Hindustan Fertilizer Corporation Limited (HFC). Among the Public Sector Units. are becoming the first choice for joint ventures. Thus. nearness to Indian shores and investment friendly environment. They are under consideration of Bureau of Industrial and Financial Restructure (BIFR). private or cooperative sector.

1 . This proposal of the consortium is not finding much favour with a section of the fertilizer industry who feel that distribution and supply of LNG is a complex business and it is better to tie up with oil majors in the country for supply of LNG. Thus.4.4 .4. both for natural gas and naphtha. Nearly 47 per cent of the total existing urea capacity is through natural gas while naphtha and fuel oil account for 32 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.LNG as Feed Stock A consortium of fertilizer companies have chalked out a pioneering Rs.200 billion mega plan for import and distribution of LNG for use as feed stock for their existing and future urea plants. LSHS and other petro products from the eastern coast. 4. However.100 billion joint venture company by equity participation from the existing fertilizer companies for sourcing LNG. 90 per cent of the total urea capacity is based on hydrocarbon feed stocks and the remaining 10 per cent on others. The expansion projects implemented recently have dual feed arrangements. limited availability of domestic natural gas has resulted in expansions of urea capacities with alternate feed stock Naphtha which is a costly option. This joint venture company will lay requisite network of pipelines to source necessary feed stocks. Naphtha. The Committee set up under the chairmanship of the author by the Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers in its interim report suggested creation of a Rs. The Committee estimated that the fertilizer 7 . Most urea plants are based on natural gas as feedstock followed by naphtha. Shortage of natural gas is compelling even the existing gas based fertilizer plants to shift towards the use of naphtha thereby increasing the cost of production .Feed Stock Option Natural gas is the most efficient and economical feed stock for urea.

which have fully paid back their investment.390 13. 1999 8 Rs.55 65.050 8. Naphtha and LSHS for Fertilizer Sector.67 63.380 Naphtha Rs/ton LSHS 6.210 Rs/ton 5. 2000 April.000 9.222 2.500 10. Table-5 Natural Gas price for Fertilizer Industry Effective date January.2 Feed Stock Pricing Attention need be focused on taking appropriate measures for reducing the cost of feedstock and reducing energy consumptions.370 16. 1997 October.840 As a consequence of this the cost of production has also increased.140 13. The administered prices of fuel oil. naphtha. Effective date August.670 7.150 2. LSHS and natural gas have increased considerably during the last few years (Table 4 and 5).32 55. 2000 October.840 10.410 10. 1987 January.4.850 $/1000 cu.m 1. 1998 October.400 1. 1999 April. 1992 October.550 2.m 66. 4. 1998 August.010 7. which has eroded the profitability of the unit and increased subsidy on fertilizers.630 8./1000 cu. All out efforts have to be made to protect naphtha and fuel oil based plants. 2001 Fuel oil Rs/Kl 4.74 . Unless the feedstock price is assured at international competitive level there is little that such plants can do to achieve low production cost.820 10.production with the feed stock from this projects will be cheaper by at least 20 percent.84 55. Table-4 Basic Selling Price for Fuel Oil.

7000 per MT along with a concession of Rs.1900 per MT for a gas based plant.3 Affordable Cost of Feed Stock In a recent study on Naphtha market by Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI) it is reported that the price of LNG for fertilizer plants in northern India as indicated by Gas Authority of India Ltd. There is wide gap between urea price and energy price in international market as compared to Indian situation.4 G Cal/MT urea can afford an energy price of US $ 3. However.77 per million BTU for Indo-Oman Fertilizer Project.5 .5.In the background paper on Long term policy in fertilizer sector it is recommended that naphtha and fuel oil based plants should switch over to LNG during next five years. considering the uncertainties in the implementation of LNG projects. (GAIL) will be in the range of US $ 4. which is quite high compared to the agreed gas price of US $ 0. 9 .0 per million BTU. This affordable naphtha price of US $ 118/MT fob AG can be achieved at a crude price of US $ 11 per barrel which is quite unrealist compared to prevailing crude price around US $ 30 per barrel. considering a more energy efficient naphtha based urea plant having an affordable energy cost of US $ 3.73 per million BTU and a new naphtha based urea plant having energy consumption of 8 G Cal/MT urea can afford energy price of US $ 2. 2001. This makes the urea production highly uneconomical compared to the International gas/urea prices .1 per million BTU the corresponding price of feed stock naphtha will be US $ 118 per MT FOB Arabian Gulf (AG) compared to prevailing naphtha price of US $ 233 fob AG in Feb.4. Expenditure Reform Committee (ERC) of Government of India have recommended the farm gate price of urea at Rs. 4. Thus.39 per million BTU. it will be doubtful to implement such switch over. With this pricing a new gas based urea plant having an energy consumption of 5.

5 . The SSP plants are scattered all over the country accounting for nearly 20 per cent of P2O5 production. thereby not affecting cost of production of phosphatic fertilisers significantly.6 . They may also witness fluctuating market price of a fertilizer within a short span of one crop season. 4. but the phosphoric acid prices reduced from US $ 412 per MT P205 C & F India in 1999-2000 to US $ 360 per MT of P205 C & F India in 2000-01. Coated 10 . DAP. the stability and uniformity of fertilizer prices is not likely to be achieved. subsidy has not been clearly mentioned.Research and Development Efforts Fertilizer use in India is mainly limited to urea. This move enabled the Government of India (GOI) to prune the subsidy bill to some extent. Else where in the world the specialty products such as completely soluble solid fertilizers for drip irrigation and efficient products like USG. DAP by 7 percent and that of MOP by 15 percent.Most of the capacity of DAP is located in coastal areas and is based on imported phosphoric acid and ammonia. farmers who were getting Indian fertilizers almost at the uniform price throughout the country may not continue to avail this opportunity. However. there was no increase in urea price in the union budget for 2001-02. Such price variation may affect farmers purchase decision as well. modalities to phase out the manner has been proposed. the subsidy withdrawal in a phased However. In the totally decontrolled scenario. MOP and SSP. In the long term policy. With the withdrawal of subsidy and concessions the prices of fertilizers will increase.Subsidy on Fertilizers The union budget for 2000-01 raised urea prices by 15 percent. Although ammonia prices in recent past have gone upto US $ 210 per MT C & F India. 4.

Without R & D efforts Indian fertilizer industry will continue to employ stereo type operation and there will be little innovation.Distribution Network of Industry Fertilizer distribution of urea and its interstate movement is under Government control and is regulated under the Essential Commodity Act (ECA). 1992 and their distribution is taken over by the manufacturer importers.General Health of the Industry 11 . Under ECA. Apart from fixing ex-factory price based on High Power Committee (HPC) formula. Government is.8 . 4. still fixing the MRP and giving an adhoc concession on per ton of product sold.urea etc.7 . The distribution cost has to come out of the ex-factory uniform Normative Retention Price (NRP) which may impair the viability of domestic producers. New research and development activities are required to be encouraged in the areas of new product. alternate feedstock etc. Phosphatic and Potassic fertilizers were decontrolled since August. 4. Removal of distribution control on urea under ECA is proposed in the phase I of the long term policy for the fertilizer sector. supply plan for urea is formulated by the Government in consultation with the State Departments of Agriculture and Fertilizer Industry during "Zonal Conferences" held twice a year. The objectives of such exercises has been to minimise transportation cost by avoiding criss-cross movement of material and to ensure availability as per requirement all over the country. are used. however. energy saving. Government will continue to regulate the MRP till 2004-05.

Even. Japan and Belgium. there is large variation in fertilizer use amongst different States. is 4:2:1.5 percent respectively. aggregated for the country as a whole. 4. According to Expenditure Reform Committee (ERC) recommendation.7:1 in 2000-01 compared to 5.0 and 15.4:1 12 . of the total fertilizer material consumed in the country. instead of unit-wise retention price there will be a group-wise lump sum concession per ton of urea based on feed stock which will harm some units and benefit others and there will be wide spread sickness in the urea industry.It is feared that several fertilizer units will be closed down in the process of switch over from the present administered pricing mechanism to a market based regime. during 1992-93 after decontrol of phosphatic and potassic fertilizers the NPK consumption ratio distorted to 9. constitute only 5.0:2.Fertilizer Consumption Urea and DAP are the most popular fertilizers.9:2. however.1/3 to of Nether land. The per hectare consumption of fertilizer nutrients in India around 100 kg/ha which is low almost 1/4 . During 2000-2001 urea price was raised by 15%. NPK grades which can help in promoting balanced fertilisation.9 .5:3. Even under the present circumstances health of industry is not good and several units have become loss making. Within the country.5 percent of the total fertilizer materials. This would mean substantial loss of domestic fertilizer production and corresponding increase in import of urea to meet the demand. accounting for 57. The ideal N : P : K ratio.2:1 and still continues to be quite wide at 7. Korea. The year has witnessed a fall in urea consumption marginally.

deficiencies of other secondary and micro-nutrients are also becoming apparent now. Nitrogen use efficiency in rice crop is only 30-35 percent. zinc and iron. Low organic matter content in Indian soils and lack of adequate sources for micro-nutrients make it imperative to increase use of organic sources like FYM. Efficient utilisation of fertilizer. Adoption of the best time. The concept of balanced fertilizer application therefore has to consider these elements. is key to economics of fertilizer application and environment friendly sustainable agriculture.before decontrol of phosphatic and potassic fertilizers in 1991-92. Efficiency of potash is around 70-80 percent. suitable fertilizer drills for placement of fertilizers. Such imbalanced application of fertilizer is bound to affect the crop productivity and soil fertility in the long run. particularly sulphur. There is a need to practice Integrated Plant Nutrient Supply System (IPNS) to bring back the balance in soil fertility and fertilizer use. method and dose of fertilizer application by the farmers is essential to achieve higher efficiency of fertilizer use. green manure. with an overall efficiency level at 50 percent. precision farming using GIS for decision support system in efficient use of fertilizer will become necessary to enhance the Fertiliser Use Efficiency. 5. bio-gas slurry etc. USG. Besides imbalanced use of NPK. Phosphatic fertilizers are the costliest on Rs.0 CONCLUSION 13 . 4./kg of nutrient basis but their use efficiency is 20-25 percent only.10 . IPNS and other improved agronomic practices will certainly help in increasing efficiency of applied fertilizers. therefore. Use of coated urea. Soil testing to determine the fertilizer need. promotion of slow release materials.Innovative Approaches in Increasing Nutrient Use Efficiency The low efficiency of fertilizer use in India is a matter of concern.

2001. joint ventures abroad are likely to be developed. - High energy cost do not permit further expansion in urea capacity within the country. - Quantitative restrictions on fertilizer imports have been removed since April 1. joint ventures abroad are likely to be developed as there is no potential reserve within the country. - The policy considerations which are likely to be implemented may result in making the domestic production of fertilizers unviable. - At present there is no demand-supply gap in urea. A switch over in feed stock from naphtha to LNG for urea is envisaged depending on its availability and price. 14 .- Government is contemplating complete decontrol in phased manner by 2006-07. There are possibilities that domestic production and consumption of fertilizers may decline. - The implications of present policy environment for fertilizer sector in India is not promising. - For phosphate/potash also.

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