The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has raised concerns over a recent annual assessment of fertilizer needs in the state of Orissa on India's Eastern shore. A look back at the accuracy of previous assessments of nutrient needs in Orissa shows a pattern of overestimation.
In 2008-09, the strategy committee's assessment was 23% above actual fertilizer use, and the same was true in 2007-08 when estimates were high by 20%. Most concerning to the CAG was the fact that no farmers or agronomists were consulted in the formulation of this year's estimates. Indian publication The Hindu says the draft report in question simply added 5-10 percent to the previous year's estimate.
Soil samples were taken in 10 sections in each of five districts in the state of Orissa, and the results varied wildly. At that, the committee opted to stamp this year's report with last year's '+ 5-10%' stamp and called it a day. This raises a number of questions, not the least of which is where does all the extra fertilizer go each year.
The broader implication for the Indian farmer on the ground is that national fertilizer policy in that nation is considered something that can be rushed over. A conscientious examination of India's soils at the hands of third-party agronomists would undoubtedly show soils strikingly out of balance. This imbalance will not be remedied until the government there learns the importance of nurturing soil nutrition.
We have covered the frustrating, tragic lives of Indian farmers and many of the woes on the farms there could be solved by a concentrated effort on the part of governing bodies to invigorate the possibilities in the soil by balancing the Indian soil nutrient profile. The 'add 5-10%' routine lends insight into what growers in India are faced with and their frustration is not likely to improve until yields and production practices do.
It is the cycle of old, and in a land as old as India, the people understand cycles all too well. Soil imbalance leads to failing crops. Failing crops lead to failed farms and failed farms lead to hungry people. An agricultural enlightenment is needed in India and that day may well come. But as government officials brush over soil test results and add stock numbers to fertilizer imports year-on-year, the cycle of poor soil nutrition and low yields will only propogate poverty and frustration on Indian farms.
Photo credit: lecercle / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA