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Buoyant nitrogen situation in Pakistan.

Buoyant Nitrogen Situation in Pakistan

The agricultural sector in Pakistan has developed along healthy lines in the past fifteen years making the county self-sufficient in food and providing surpluses in cotton and rice for export which is critical to improving the balance of trade situation. Among other factors chemical fertilizers have played a very important role in this consistent growth. The nitrogen consumption in the past fifteen years in the country has increased at a growth rate of 7.9 per cent per annum. This paper reviews the fertilizer consumption in Pakistan and the effect of this consumption on the major crops. It also projects nitrogen requirements for the future and assesses the supply possibilities.

As in many developing countries, the use of chemical fertilizers was introduced in Pakistan in the mid-fifties. However, use began in earnest after the introduction of the high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice in the mid-sixties. Since then, the growth in consumption has been fueled by the fact that there is a rapidly expanding population to sustain and resources - land and water - are limited. Agricultural production has had to go up through increased crop yields, through increased intensity of cultivation, and through bringing more land under the till.

Background - Fertilizer


Total fertilizer consumption in the country from 623 Kt nutrients in 1976 has trebled in the past fifteen years and the consumption in 1990 was about 1,874 Kt.

Table : Table-I Fertilizer Consumption - Pakistan
 N P205 K20 Total
1976 497 124 2 623
1981 816 238 18 1,072
1986 1,223 354 43 1,620
1990 1,446 391 37 1,874
% Growth 7.9 8.6 21.5 8.2

Nitrogen consumption in these fifteen years also increased almost three times, from a little below 0.5 million tonnes in 1976 to almost 1.45 million tonnes last year, at a very good growth rate of 7.9 per cent per annum. Of the total fertilizer consumption in the country, nitrogen accounts for about 77 per cent. The phosphate and potash consumption also registered very good growth rates. The total fertilizer consumption in terms of product tonnes is about 4.5 million tonnes comprising of mainly Urea, DAP, CAN, NP and smaller quantities of AS, SSP, SOP and NPK's. The retail value of all these products in the local currency is about Rs. 13.5 billion equivalent to US $ 614 million. About 67 per cent of the quantity consumed comes from local production.

Consumption Kg/ha

In comparison to many other countries, in Pakistan the fertilizer consumption expressed in Kg/ha is reasonably good at approximately 90 Kgs and this figure is growing steadily. This is understandable since out of the 20 million hectares of land cultivated about 75 per cent is irrigated through a very large network of irrigation canals and tubewells and only the balance 25 per cent depends on rainfall for irrigation. The nitrogen per hectare consumption is now about 69 Kg/ha.

Table : Table-II Consumption Nutrient Kg/ha
 Total Nitrogen
1976 31 25
1981 53 40
1986 78 59
1990 90 69

Nutrient Consumption Ratios

Even now in relation to nitrogen, phosphate usage is low and very little potash is in use in the country. In the case of phosphates, there are two broad reasons: (1) that since only about 25 per cent is manufactured in the country and the rest imported, there is no aggressive marketing effort and consequently less market development as against the effort in nitrogen; (2) the prices vis-a-vis nitrogen are quite high. This is despite the fact that there is a need for phosphates. In the case of potash on the other hand, a need has not yet been established for all the soils in Pakistan and in certain areas the canal water carries silt containing appreciable amounts of potash and the soil is continuously replenished. Also, potash is used in Pakistan for some odd reason exclusively as the more expensive sulphate of potash permitting imports of only limited quantities of product.

Table : Table-III Nutrient Ratios
 N P K
1976 4.0 1.0 0.02
1981 3.4 1.0 0.08
1986 3.4 1.0 0.12
1990 3.7 1.0 0.09

Nitrogen Consumption Pattern

The main use of nitrogen (55%) in Pakistan is in the winter season (Rabi as it is called locally) when the major and almost the only crop is wheat. In this season December and January alone account for almost 30 per cent of the year's consumption. The summer season (Kharif) absorbs the other 45 per cent April through September on cotton, sugarcane and rice. Because of the sharp seasonality, particularly in winter, arranging for adequate stocks in the field and continuous replenishment given the inadequate infrastructure can become very difficult.

Nitrogen Supply/Demand

The priority placed by the Government on agriculture and ensuring adequate supplies of inputs at the right prices, has always ensured surplus nitrogen availability in the country on an overall basis, though there have been a few tight situations for limited periods now and then, more by oversight than design. Gradually as more nitrogenous fertilizers were manufactured in the country, the reliance on imports declined. However, as consumption continued to increase at a healthy rate and no new plants were installed, the imports had to be increased once again.

Nitrogen Supply/Demand

Ignoring inventories, the nitrogen supply/demand situation during the past fifteen years has been as shown above.

Nitrogen Imports

As shown above in the early years with limited local production most of the nitrogen requirements were met through imports. From 102 Kt in 1976 the imports built upon hitting a peak in 1980 of 478 Kt. With the start-up of two urea plants, one each in 1981 and 1982, of a capacity of 262 Kt nitrogen each, imports were curtailed and at low levels till 1986 when once again the quantities had to be increased to meet the deficits. The nitrogen imports are in the form of urea and associated nitrogen in the compound fertilizers. The present urea requirements that are met through imports are 500 to 600 Kt per annum.

Nitrogen Production

At the moment there are eight plants producing straight nitrogenous fertilizers. Six of these are manufacturing urea and one plant each manufacturing ammonium sulphate and calcium ammonium nitrate respectively. One other plant producing nitrophos 23:23 provides some associated nitrogen.

The first three plants namely of Fauji Fertilizer Co. Ltd., Dawood Hercules Ltd. and Exxon Chemicals Pakistan Limited are in the private sector. The others are all owned and operated by the National Fertilizer Corporation in the public sector. Almost all the plants both in the public and private sector have excellent production records in relation to the design capacity.

The Fauji, Exxon and NFC Mirpur Mathelo Urea Plants are based on natural gas derived from the Mari Gas field. All other plants operate on natural gas from Sui Gas fields. The gas is priced at $ 0.43 per 1000 SCF ex-well head for Mari and $ 10 per 1000 SCF delivered to plant site from Sui. The local production of nitrogen mainly derived from Urea in 1990 totalled 1,129 Kt or about 78 per cent of the total nitrogen consumption of 1,446 Kt.

Fertilizer Consumption Effect

of Agricultural Production

In the fifteen years under review the increased consumption of chemical fertilizers has had a very significant impact on the production and yields of the major agricultural crops in Pakistan shown in Table-V:

Wheat, which is the staple diet of the people and hence a very important crop for economic/political reasons, has gone up by about 64 per cent in these fifteen years to 14.3 million t and has just about kept pace with the growth in population making the country self-sufficient in food. The increase in production has partly come about on account of increase in area an dpartly due to increase in yields. Wheat economics for the farmer is not very favourable and therefore, there has been no dramatic increase. The total production of sugarcane and rice has also gone up but more due to increase in area than yields alone.

The sugarcane production has ensured self-sufficiency of sugar in the country. Since rice is not a very popular diet about 50 per cent of this is exported. However, the most significant increase has been in cotton where the yields and the total production has trebled in the past fifteen years. Cotton and its manufactured items form the single largest block of export earnings and hence the importance of this breakthrough. The increase in yield is due to good application of inputs - fertilizers and pesticides as well as introduction of good seed varieties.

Projected Nitrogen


The stage is set for renewed emphasis on increasing agricultural production and productivity of the food as well as cash crops - due to the rapid increase in population and a greater need for exports to bring about an improvement in the balance of trade. This will entail an emphasis on and priority being given to the use of more and better inputs, improved seed variety, better water management and an improvement in the infrastructure. The trends in fertilizer consumption are positive and likely to continue. The National Commission on Agriculture instituted by the Government of Pakistan submitted its report in March 1988. This report projects the nitrogen and other fertilizer consumption in the country as shown in table.

However, the projections are based more on desired targets than any extensions of trends or end-use analysis. FFC in 1988-89 had carried out an indepth analysis projecting the major and minor crops into the future keeping in view land, water and seed availability and a realistic assessment of the adaptation of modern agricultural technology by the farmers. The projections of nitrogen requirements on the basis of this analysis is as shown below:-

Nitrogen Demand

Thus by the turn of the century, the nitrogen demand in Pakistan could be about 2.12 million t compared with the demand in 1989-90 of about 1.47 million t showing a growth rate of 4 per cent per annum. This projected growth rate of 4 per cent estimated above is less than the actual growth rate of the past fifteen years of 7.9 per cent per annum, but then the base was low on account of the very low usage in the early years. Thus from a nitrogen use of about 69 Kg/ha at present the usage by the year 1999/2000 could be about 97 Kg/ha - which seems a realistic number.

In 1990 of the total nitrogen consumption of 1,446 Kt almost 1250 Kt or 86 per cent came from straight nitrogenous fertilizers Urea, AN & CAN and the balance 14 per cent from associated nitrogen. Assuming that ratio to be altered in future in view of increased use of compound phosphatic fertilizers by the year 1999/2000 the nitrogen demand in the form of straight N could be about 1.7 million t. At the moment the local production of straight N in Pakistan is 1,056 Kt and further assuming that in future only high nitrogen content Urea would be the preferred product the additional Urea that would be required would be 1400 Kt equivalent to 644 Kt nitrogen. So far only one project that is of FFC is under construction to produce 600 Kt Urea. About 200 Kt Urea will come from the balancing and modernization of existing plants. There is therefore a need for another Urea manufacturing unit of 600 Kt sometime in 1996-97 to adequately meet the nitrogen requirements upto the turn of the century.


The usage of nitrogen in agriculture in Pakistan progressed very rapidly in the past fifteen years from 497 Kt in 1976 to 1,446 Kt in 1990 at a growth rate of 7.9 per cent per annum. By 1990 this meant that the application in the soil was 69 Kg/ha, which is a good rate for a developing country. Also in 1990 about 1,129 Kt or 78 per cent of the total nitrogen consumption was manufactured locally.

To keep pace with the needs of the burgeoning population of over 100 million growing at one of the fastest rates of 3.1 per cent per annum, and also to bring about an improvement in the balance of trade, agricultural productivity will have to be increased. Based on several indicators, nitrogen consumption is forecast to grow at about 4 per cent per annum in the future taking the nitrogen requirements by 1999-2000 to 2,124 Kt. This will mean an application of 97 Kg/ha. Approximately 1,400 Kt additional urea would be required to meet this demand.

Table : Table-IV Nitrogen Manufacture in Pakistan
 Prod. As %
Plant Capacity Capacity
Start up Location Product (Kt) 1988-90
Fauji (1982) Goth Machhi Urea 570 112
Dawood Hercules (1971) Sheikhupura Urea 346 103
Exxon (1968) Daharki Urea 250 102
NFC (1980) Mirpur Mathelo Urea 554 106
NFC Expanded (1986) Multan Urea 100 108
NFC (1982) Haripur Urea 99 102
NFC Expanded (1978) Multan CAN 459 73
NFC (1958) Daudkhel AS 90 106

Associated Nitrogen:

NFC (1979) Multan NP 304 107

Table : Table-V Agriproduction - Major Crops
 1975-1976 1989-1990
 Million Million Yield Million Million Yield
 Hectare Tonnes t/ha Hectare Tonnes t/ha
Wheat 6.1 8.7 1.4 7.8 14.3 1.83
Cotton 1.85 0.5 0.28 2.6 1.5 0.56
Sugarcane 0.7 25.5 36.5 0.86 35.5 41.5
Rice 1.71 2.6 1.53 2.11 3.2 1.53

Table : Table-VI Projected Fertilizer Use Kt Nutrient
Year N P K TOTAL Kg/ha
1985-86 1128 350 33 1511 76
NPK Ratio 3.22 1.0 0.09 -- --
1992-93 1850 625 75 2550 120
Year N P K Total Kg/ha
1985-86 1128 350 33 1511 76
NPK Ratio 2.96 1.0 0.12
1999-2000 2300 900 140 3340 140
NPK Ratio 2.56 1.0 0.16 -- --
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Title Annotation:nitrogen for the fertilizer industry; Special Feature
Author:Ahmed, Shakeel; Beig, Mirza Faisal
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Jun 1, 1991
Previous Article:New power projects.
Next Article:Computerisation in Pakistan: its various phases.

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