Karol Bagh | GS Foundation Course | 29 April, 11:30 AM Call Us
This just in:

State PCS

Be Mains Ready

  • 21 Nov 2020 GS Paper 3 Economy

    Discuss the issues related to the Nutrient based subsidy scheme (NBS). Also suggest the way forward for a holistic fertilizer subsidy policy in India. (250 words)

    • Briefly explain the Nutrient based subsidy scheme.
    • Highlight the issues related to NBS
    • Suggest the way forward for a holistic fertilizer subsidy policy in India.
    • Write a coherent conclusion


    • Under NBS, the fertilizers are provided to the farmers at the subsidized rates based on the nutrients (N, P, K & S) contained in these fertilizers.
      • Apart from this, fertilizers which are fortified with secondary and micronutrients such as molybdenum (Mo) and zinc are given additional subsidy.
    • Under this Policy, the subsidy on Phosphatic and Potassic (P&K) fertilizers is announced by the Government on an annual basis for each nutrient on a per kg basis.
    • These rates are determined taking into account the international and domestic prices of P&K fertilizers, exchange rate, inventory level in the country etc.
    • NBS policy intends to increase the consumption of P&K fertilizers so that optimum balance (N:P:K= 4:2:1 ) of NPK fertilization is achieved.
    • This would improve soil health and as a result the yield from the crops would increase resulting in enhanced income to the farmers.
    • Also, as the government expects rational use of fertilizers, this would also ease off the burden of fertilizer subsidy.
    • It is being implemented from April 2010 by the Department of Fertilizers, Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers.


    Issues Related to NBS

    • Urea Outside NBS: The urea remains under price control and NBS has been implemented only in other fertilisers.
      • The price of fertilisers (other than urea) — which were decontrolled have gone up from 2.5 to four times during these 10 years. However, since April 2010, the price of urea has been raised by hardly 11%.
      • This has led to farmers using more urea than before, which has further worsened fertiliser imbalance.
    • Economic & Environmental Cost: Considering that fertilizer subsidy is the second-biggest subsidy after food subsidy, the NBS policy is not only damaging the fiscal health of the economy but also proving detrimental to the soil health of the country.
    • Diversion of Urea: Subsidised urea is getting diverted to bulk buyers/traders or even non-agricultural users such as plywood and animal feed makers.
      • It is being smuggled to neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Nepal.

    Way Forward

    The government has launched a slew of reforms regarding the use of urea, which includes compulsory neem-coating of all urea and directly making fertiliser subsidy payment to companies. However, these measures merely address the diversion of urea, but they don’t fix the real problem — of overuse by farmers themselves. Therefore, following steps can be taken by the government:

    • Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) in Fertilizers: DBT scheme can bring benefits to the farmer on various fronts; choice of improved products at competitive rates, gain from enhanced extension services from the industry on best practices leading to "sustainable and responsible" agriculture production, and better earnings for such produce.
      • However, DBT in fertilizers must be preceded by holistic financial inclusion in rural areas.
    • Enabling Last-Mile Connectivity: Affordable and workable" last mile" technologies can enable the Government to set up the required framework for disbursal, which in turn will allow for focused targeting of subsidy based on land, crop, soil health and other geographical factors.
    • Bringing Urea Under NBS: In order to address the imbalance in the fertilizer use, urea has to come under NBS.
      • A feasible way to do it is by hiking urea prices and simultaneously reducing the NBS rates of phosphorus, potash and sulphur to make other fertilisers cheaper.
    • Long Term Reform: In the long run, NBS itself should be replaced by a flat per-acre cash subsidy that could be used to purchase any fertiliser. That includes value-added and customised products containing not just other nutrients, but delivering even nitrogen more efficiently than urea.


    However, it is believed that despite such temporary blips, NBS is a step in the right direction. NBS in urea is, therefore, an imperative not only to achieve balanced nutrient consumption but also to improve the government’s finances.

SMS Alerts
Share Page
× Snow