1. Agriculture World

Tea Growers are Concerned about Urea Scarcity in South India

While attempts are being made to promote the use of nano urea, producers say the nutrient's efficacy in tea has yet to be properly established. "There is a scarcity of urea available, which is a problem. If the scarcity persists in the next weeks, it will have an impact on the tea production,” as per a tea industry source.

Shivam Dwivedi
Picture of Urea
Picture of Urea

Tea growers in South India are concerned about a granular urea shortage, fearing that the beverage's supply may be harmed if the shortfall continues in the coming season. In addition, a dramatic rise in the price of muriate of potash (MoP) has heightened their fears.

While attempts are being made to promote the use of nano urea, producers say the nutrient's efficacy in tea has yet to be properly established. "There is a scarcity of urea available, which is a problem. If the scarcity persists in the next weeks, it will have an impact on the tea production,” as per a tea industry source.

In tea gardens, urea is sprayed in numerous cycles, with farmers planning to begin applying the nitrogen from March onwards, depending on pre-monsoon precipitation.

Officials from Kerala's Agriculture Department insisted that the state had provided the needed volumes of urea, molybdenum, diammonium phosphate, and complex fertilizers. Y.C.Stephen, State President of the Small Tea Growers Association, Kattappana, however, refuted the assertions of State government officials, claiming that small tea growers are in desperate need of fertilizers like urea and potash.

By the beginning of 2022, just about 1% of the 20,000 small-scale growers in Idukki had received the required quantities of fertilizers, according to Stephen. He added that, in addition to urea scarcity, increased MoP prices are hurting small and medium growers. The MoP price has nearly risen to $34,000 per tonne.

Shortage of Urea:

The shortage of urea and the tripling of MoP prices, according to a senior official of a large tea producing company in Kerala, will make manure application costly, affecting productivity in the future. As of now, scientists have only advised nano urea for foliar spray and not for soil treatment. As a result, nano urea cannot yet replace urea, according to the official.

According to IFFCO sources, nano urea can be used instead of traditional urea. As a result, urea can be used to replace nano urea wherever it is needed, however, the degree of replacement would vary depending on soil and crop conditions, they added.

"Conventional urea is administered 4-5 times (Basal/Drenching/Foliar) at different pruning phases and unpruned stages to tea, which is a long-duration plantation crop." According to farmer field/ grower experience, nano urea can replace traditional urea by 25-50 percent. Tea plantations have also undertaken encouraging studies and purchased nano urea at their level. Long-term scientific trials are being conducted with UPASI & TRA Tocklai, Guwahati, in order to earn growers' confidence, according to IFFCO sources.

Nano Urea- Not an Alternative

Nano urea, according to N Lakshmanan, a senior planter from Coonoor, is not a complete replacement for granular urea in perennial crops like tea. In tea, granular urea is required for certain root activities. Theanine is a chemical produced in the root zone that is responsible for catechins in tea and flavonids in tea. The flavonid catechin will begin to dwindle if Theanine is not generated in the root zone.

“This is something that needs to be looked at. We cannot afford to fully disregard granular urea unless and until a comprehensive long-term study is conducted," Lakshmanan said.

According to H N Sivan, a member of the Nilgiris District Integrated Small Tea Farmers Committee, urea allocation has been decreased by roughly 20% this year in order to replace it with natural and organic manures in order to make the Nilgiris district an organic district.

The Nilgiris use roughly 1,400 tonnes of urea each year. He believes that urea scarcity will have little influence on output because small farmers use it in such little amounts. Furthermore, urea is being replaced with natural manure, according to Sivan.

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