The closure of two units of the Brahmaputra Valley Fertilizer Corporation Limited (BVFCL) in Assam is costing the state’s tea industry this season.
More than 800 large and medium size tea gardens and over 1.5 lakh small tea growers in Assam, who jointly contribute more than 51 percent to India’s total tea production, are severely hit this season due to lack of urea.
The BVFCL, popularly known as Namrup Fertilizer, is the only hope for tea gardens in Assam and other parts of the northeastern states. While one unit of the factory was closed years ago due to technical reasons, the lone producing unit of the factory also stopped last month after a blast triggered by technical glitch ripped through the unit.
The requirement of the urea in Assam for agricultural and other use is close to 5 lakh MT while the BVFCL used to produce around 3.5 lakh MT. The tea industry in Assam was largely dependent on the BVFCL for the urea requirement.
“The gardens in Assam are suffering due to lack of urea. Most of the gardens have missed the urea during the first split in the month of March-April. Now if they miss it during the second split as well which is now, the quality as well as the total output of tea will suffer,” said a senior manager of a Tea estate owned by the Tatas in Assam (Amalgamated Plantations).
He said that urea is one of the prime nutrients for the tea bushes. “There have been tremendous scarcity of the urea for almost all the tea gardens after the BVFCL’s units got closed down. There are some gardens who had procured huge quantity of urea in the past, they are managing. However, majority of the gardens does not store the urea and they are suffering due to the crisis,” he said.
Vice president of the All Assam Small Tea Growers’ Association (AASTGA), Karuna Mahanta also rued the closure of the BVFCL unit and said that the scarcity of urea had been costing the small tea growers dearly. “None of the small tea growers can buy urea in huge quantity and store it. We normally buy during the season according to the requirement and use it. It is going to affect the tea quality as well as tea quantity,” Mahanta said.
Mahanta said that the crisis will also affect the tea price as the production cost will increase. “Some of the planters are using urea by buying it at higher rate from outside. This will lead to cost escalation,” Mahanta said adding that they have already appealed the Assam government several times to take steps so that the planters can tide over the crisis.
There is absolute crisis for urea after the closure of the BVFCL unit, which used to sell urea at subsidized rate for the planters in Assam. As the peak cropping months in Assam—July, August, September and October are nearing in, the planters are a worried lot about the yield.