ECONOMIC experts consider fertilizer consumption a direct indicator of growth in the agriculture sector. Pakistan has a flourishing fertilizer industry, which has been growing at approximately 8.5 per cent per annum.
More than 14 factories are manufacturing urea, calcium ammonium nitrate, ammonium phosphate and nitro phosphate, with each one of them having a direct impact on soil fertility. Urea is considered the highest-grade fertilizer and is useful for all types of crops. In particular, wheat crop consumes the largest part of the farm nutrient.
The fertilizer industry is facing an uncertain future as indigenous reserves of natural gas, the basic raw material for manufacturing urea, are depleting fast. The government has been subjecting fertilizer units to gas loadshedding in winters for two reasons: a lack of required gas pressure and to provide domestic consumers of gas with relief.
The Mari gas field in Ghotki district is supplying 535 million cubic feet gas per day (mmcfd) to three units of Fauji Fertilizer Company, two units of Engro Fertilizers and one unit of Fatima Fertilizer Company. Located within a radius of around 60 kilometres, these units are manufacturing 90pc or 5.2m tonnes of the country’s total production of 6.2m tonnes.
Engro Fertilizers Senior Vice President Asif Tajik fears that the Mari gas reserves, dedicated to the fertilizer units, may go dry within six to eight years. They have already gone down from six trillion cubic feet to 2tr cubic feet.
The claim should set alarm bells ringing for stakeholders of the agriculture sector. If not taken care of immediately, the gas shortage may threaten national food security as experts believe our over-cropped fields may not give optimal yields without the use of fertilizers.
Underlining the importance of urea in reaping higher yields, Mr Tajik said that half of the world population will go hungry in the absence of the compost.