Fertiliser embezzlement: Find out those involved

There is no room to consider the seizure of 47 tonnes of fertiliser from the Bangladesh Agriculture Development Corporation (BADC) in Saturia, Manikganj, as an unusual incident. 

According to a Prothom Alo news report, 47.45 tonnes of Triple Super Phosphate (TSP) were being transported to two business firms—M/S Bishnu and Brothers and M/S Narayan Banik in Kaliakoir, Gazipur—from the BADC warehouse in Manikganj.

Earlier, in June of last year, a pickup truck carrying 3,000 kg or 75 maunds of muriate of potash fertiliser was seized during a smuggling attempt in Bijoynagar upazila of Brahmanbaria. 

The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) recovered 1,200 sacks of DAP fertiliser being smuggled from Natore in January of the previous year. During the operation, RAB detained six transport workers. 

Despite the arrests of the involved drivers and their assistants in these incidents, the main culprits remain at large. The contractor firm, M/S Poton Traders, responsible for transportation, embezzled 72,000 tonnes of chemical fertiliser imported by the government after unloading from the port, instead of transporting it.

On 17 October 2022, Prothom Alo published a report stating that fertiliser worth Tk 6.20 billion, imported by Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation (BCIC), was embezzled rather than being transported to the warehouse. 

According to the case documents, this fertiliser was unloaded from Chattogram and Mongla ports by 19 February 2021. Despite repeated requests by BCIC, the contracted firm for transportation has failed to transport 64,000 tonnes of fertiliser to the government warehouse. The cost of the fertiliser is Tk 4.38 billion. 

It needs to be investigated whether BCIC officials were involved in the embezzlement of fertiliser by transportation companies. 

The marketing of fertiliser falls entirely under the jurisdiction of BADC. They appoint dealers for selling imported or locally produced fertiliser. As a result, there is no opportunity to trade fertiliser in the open market. Unfortunately, farmers do not obtain fertiliser at the prices set by the government. Regrettably, they have to purchase fertiliser at a higher price from the open market. 

There is no need to emphasize that agriculture is the lifeline of our economy. Farmers provide food to 170 million people with a land area of 56,000 square kilometers in Bangladesh. Government-supported programmes and innovative research by agricultural scientists have significantly contributed to the development of agriculture. 

The government provides fertiliser, seeds, and irrigation at an affordable cost. Currently, most agricultural lands require fertiliser and irrigation. Consequently, fertiliser and irrigation is crucial to achieving the desired yields. 

It is a matter of concern that farmers have to struggle to access fertiliser and irrigation. When farmers purchase fertiliser at a higher price, their production costs increase. At times, farmers use less than the required amount of fertiliser, resulting in lower yields. 

If the government aims to shield farmers from this detrimental cycle, there is no alternative to ensuring timely fertiliser supply and enhancing monitoring of dealers. 

An investigation should be conducted into the embezzlement of imported fertiliser in Chattogram and the unauthorised sale of fertiliser in the open market. Legal action should be taken against the perpetrators. There should be no room for impunity.