Fertiliser imports from Russia up, make up 20% of total in April-June

IN A development that holds diplomatic significance and brings fiscal savings, Russia has emerged as the largest supplier of fertilisers to India during April-June (Q1, FY23) this year. India imported 7.74 lakh metric tonnes of fertilisers from Russia in the first quarter and this is more than a fifth of the total 36.4 lakh metric tonnes imported from across the globe, according to data shared by Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister Mansukh Mandaviya in a written reply to a question in Lok Sabha on Friday.

The imports from Russia in just the first three months of FY23 is equal to almost 70 per cent of 11.02 lakh MTs of fertilisers imported from Russia in the whole of financial year 2021-22 (FY22). In recent years, China has been the biggest source for India, with fertiliser imports from the south Asian neighbour accounting for 24 per cent in FY22. Historically, Russia has not been among the top fertiliser suppliers to India; in FY22, India’s imports from Russia were just 6 per cent of its total fertiliser imports.

According to sources, imports from Russia were “10 per cent cheaper” than the prevailing prices in the international market. “India could secure diammonium phosphate (DAP) at $920 a tonne when global prices were hovering above $1,000 a tonne,” a source said.

The spurt in imports of fertilisers and crude oil from Russia has come at a time when western countries have imposed sanctions against Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine. This issue may also figure during talks with USAID Administrator Samantha Power, who is scheduled to travel to India during July 25-27. She will be in India to meet a cross section of stakeholders including climate experts, civil society, and government officials to discuss the global food security crisis, and the US-India development partnership.

India has so far maintained a tightrope walk between the US-led west and Russia on the Ukraine crisis, but has moved in to buy cheap oil and fertilisers to meet its energy and food security needs. High Russian imports have been a point of India’s conversation with several western interlocutors in the past few months.

Of the 7.74 lakh MT fertiliser imports from Russia, urea comprised 47,000 MT, DAP 1.32 lakh MTs and NPK (a complex fertiliser containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) 5.95 lakh MTs.

To meet its domestic demand, India imports a significant quantity of fertilisers. In FY22, urea consumption stood at 341.73 lakh MTs, of which 250.72 lakh MTs was met through indigenous production and 91.36 lakh MTs through imports; mainly from China (25.91 lakh MTs), Oman (15.88 lakh MTs) and UAE (7.95 lakh MTs), according to government data.


Savings through diplomacy

India has tried to walk the diplomatic tightrope by buying more crude oil and fertilisers from Russia even as the latter faces sanctions from the West. This is also likely to bring savings amid the fall in the rupee and higher crude oil prices.

Similarly, to meet its DAP consumption of 92.64 lakh MTs in 2021-22, India imported 54.62 lakh MTs, of which the maximum 18.59 lakh MTs came from Saudi Arabia followed by China (18.15 lakh MTs) and Morocco (11.60 lakh MTs). India’s domestic production of DAP was 42.22 lakh MTs in FY22.

For muriate of potash (MoP), India is completely dependent on imports. In 2021-22, India imported 24.60 lakh MTs of MoP with the two major sources being Israel (5.22 lakh MTs) and Lithuania (5.21 lakh MTs).

In recent years, India has imported mainly NPK from Russia. To partly meet its 121.37 lakh MTs demand for NPK, India imported 11.70 lakh MTs, of which more than half 5.72 lakh MTs came from Russia, shows government data.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, fertiliser supply has taken a hit globally, causing an uptick in prices of the nutrients in recent months. Observing that the Department of Fertilisers has been “continuously monitoring” the supply situation, Mandaviya told the House, “In the aftermath of the Russia-Ukraine war, the focus is to facilitate long term tie ups and short-term supplies of P&K fertilisers from alternative sources.”

“Further, India has entered a long-term agreement to offtake 10 lakh MTs urea annually from Oman on FOB basis through OQ trading for a period of three years. Shipment under the long-term agreement has commenced during February, 2022,” Mandaviya said in the written reply.

Mandaviya himself has travelled to several countries to secure supply of fertilisers. “I have come back from Jordan after signing a long-term agreement for supply of 30 lakh metric tonnes of rock phosphate of the best grade. Besides, an agreement has also been signed for 2.75 lakh MTs MoP and 2.5 lakh MTs of DAP… The agreement is for five years,” he had told reporters on May 17.

Mandaviya said there would be “no shortage” of fertilisers during the kharif season 2022.

For kharif 2022, the Centre has pegged the total fertiliser requirement at 354.34 lakh MTs, of which urea accounts for 179 lakh MTs, DAP 58.82 lakh MTs, MoP 19.81 lakh MTs, NPK 63.71 lakh MT, and SSP 33 lakh MT.

As per the government data, the opening stock of fertilisers available for the kharif season stood at 125.5 lakh MTs, or 35 per cent of the requirement as on April, 19, 2022. Among individual fertilisers, the urea stock is 34.62 per cent of the total requirement, DAP 41.65 per cent, MoP 30.29 per cent, NPK 25.33 per cent, and SSP 51.52 per cent.

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