India certainly remains a contrasting country, with huge urban agglomerations in contrast to poor rural areas. Agriculture is the Indian economys Cinderella, providing sustenance to two-thirds of the Indian population. Besides this, it also provides crucial linkages to the rest of the economy. The urban-rural imbalance is evident through the fact that agriculture accounts for one fifth of the Indian GDP, but sustains more than half the population.
A fast growing population implies a higher demand for food. Traditional agriculture must be gradually replaced with intensive agriculture. This form of agriculture is based on new principles, wherein high productivity is a key focus.
Climate helps the Indian population obtain significant harvests, but also depletes the mineral resources present in the soil. This impairment of soil quality must be avoided through modern agricultural techniques. In this sense, fertilizers act as the oxygen source for agriculture.
The Indian fertilizer industry had a very shy beginning in 1906, when the first manufacturing unit of Single Super Phosphate (SSP) was set up in Ranipet near Chennai with an annual capacity of 6000 MT. The Fertilizer & Chemicals Travancore of India Ltd. (FACT) and the Fertilizers Corporation of India (FCI) were the first large sized-fertilizer plants set up in the 40s and 50s in order to establish an industrial base to achieve self-sufficiency in food grains.
The installed capacity grew till 2005 and achieved a maximum capacity of 120.61 lakh MT of nitrogen and 56.59 lakh MT of Phosphoric nutrients.
From the very beginning, the fertilizer industry has grown constantly and has gradually reached self-sufficiency. Presently India is the third largest fertilizer producer in the world, having a wide development horizon.
As a result of constraints in availability of phosphoric acid and high prices of sulphur, production of phosphoric fertilizers has declined in the last few years. Requirement of MOP are being met fully by imports.
The future development of this sector is closely linked to infrastructure development, price reduction through efficiency enhancement, search of more abundant and cheaper raw material resources, feedstock, subsidizing policy and finally the huge domestic demand.
In conclusion, the fertilizer sector has spectacularly evolved in the last decade and has a bright future ahead with continuing progress and increase in domestic demand.
Claudiu Pasca is a Sustainability Analyst with Solaron Sustainability Services. Solaron (www.solaron.in) is a niche Sustainability / ESG research firm with a global team of 60+ Analysts present across several Emerging markets like India, Brazil, China, UAE, Mexico, Russia, Eastern Europe and Africa.