Oct. 31, 2016
At the time of Independence, India’s fertiliser production capacity was around 0.112 million tonne (MT), a figure quite abysmal given a majority of the country’s population was engaged in agriculture then. Also, chemical fertilisers were looked at as more of a supplement to organic manure.
Over the years, however, with growing population and accompanying requirement of better acreage, it was realised that chemical soil nutrients were the need of the hour especially to assist the Green Revolution.
It was in the 1906 when EID-Parry (India) Ltd, now known as Coromandel International Ltd, started manufacturing single super phosphate (SSP) at its Ranipet facility near Chennai. The initial capacity of the plant was at 6,000 tonnes per annum.
Finally, the Indian fertiliser sector took a quantum leap with the setting up of the Fertilizer and Chemicals Travancore Ltd (FACT) at Kochi in Kerala and Mysore Chemicals and Fertilisers Ltd.
In 1933, Tata Iron and Steel Co. Ltd started producing ammonium sulphate as a by-product of its steel industry. In 1941, Mysore Chemicals started manufacturing ammonium sulphate using sulphuric acid. This was followed by FACT, which in 1947 used gypsum as a raw material to produce ammonium sulphate.
However, it was in 1959 when the country’s first urea plant came into existence and Fertilizer Corp. of India Ltd (FCIL) was set up at Sindri in Jharkhand. This was the first large-sized fertiliser plant to be set up in the country. Sindri fertiliser plant produced 960 tonne per day of ammonium sulphate.
The government, however, decided in 2002 to close operations of all units of FCIL due to unviability of operations. The current National Democratic Alliance government is putting in efforts to revive the plant.
According to information available with the Fertiliser Association of India, a lobby group, there are about 159 fertiliser units, closed and operational, in the country, which comprise of 30 urea, 19 di-ammonium phosphate and complex fertilisers, 99 SSP and one ammonium chloride plants. The country produced 24.5 million tonnes of urea during 2015-16.