India has sufficient supply of neem oil for coating urea fertiliser and the government is closely monitoring the quality that is being used, a senior fertiliser ministry official has said. In 2015, the government had made it mandatory to coat domestic/imported urea with neem oil. This was done to boost crop yields, reduce cost of production and curb diversion to non-agriculture sectors. The country produces 25 million tonnes of urea as against the demand for 32 MT.
The gap is met through imports. Urea is sold at a highly subsidised rate. "India produces around 2.5 lakh tonnes of neem oil every year, which is sufficient for mandatory 100 per cent coating of domestic and imported urea," the official told PTI, while requesting anonymity. Neem oil is procured largely from Uttarakhand (Kashipur and Jaspur), Rajasthan (Jaipur), Tamil Nadu (Salem, Theni, Gopalpuram, Cuddalore and Coimbatore), Uttar Pradesh (Banda), Haryana (Faridabad), Maharashtra (Thane) and Gujarat (Kheda), he said. It is estimated that over 60 per cent of the world's neem tree population is found in India. To prevent malpractices in neem-coating of urea, the official said that the government has taken several strict measures. "The ministry is closely monitoring the quality of neem coated urea produced in the country and making all efforts to ensure that the urea available to the farmers is of the best quality," the official said. All urea manufacturers have been asked to procure neem oil from genuine producers only and as per the specification prescribed by the Fertiliser Control Order (FCO) to ensure good quality neem oil is used for coating urea, he said. The manufacturers have been asked to install CCTV camera at production facilities and ports, and ensure proper testing of neem oil in-house as well as through outside laboratory before using the same for urea coating, he added. Stating that neem-coated urea is showing positive results, the official said a study conducted by the agriculture ministry in four states -- Bihar, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab -- found that there was increase in farmers' returns due to rise in crop yields and reduction in cost of production because of lower consumption of urea. The study, conducted through Bengaluru-based Agricultural Development and Rural Transformation Centre (ADRTC), found that use of neem-coated urea improved soil health, reduced costs on plant protection chemicals, reduced pest/disease attack and higher crop yields, he added.
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