In Punjab, the illegal trading of urea has reached alarming heights, with prices skyrocketing beyond Rs. 5,000 per bag, a recurring issue exacerbated during each wheat-growing season.
This season proves to be no exception, as urea prices surge in areas where law enforcement presence is often lacking, including Bahawalpur, Layyah, Faisalabad, Rajanpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Muzaffargarh, and Kamalia, precisely during the optimal time for wheat sowing.
Sources informed ProPakistani that even within cities like Rahim Yar Khan and Muzaffargarh, urea prices have surged to Rs. 4,600 per bag, while Faisalabad, Dera Ghazi Khan, Khanewal, and Sheikhpura
have prices ranging from Rs. 4,400 to Rs. 4,550 per bag.
It is noteworthy that the officially notified Maximum Retail Prices for Sona Urea and Sarsabz Urea stand at Rs. 3,410 per bag.
A market consultant stated, “There is no regulation. Registered dealers within cities are falsely reporting shortages to farmers, while urea is being sold in surrounding areas and villages at exorbitant prices like Rs. 5,000, as no regulatory body or law enforcement bothers to check those areas.”
He added that this situation underscores another year where manufacturers produce enough, yet the critical issue lies in ensuring it reaches farmers at the notified prices.
The financial impact on the average wheat farmer can range from Rs. 3,000 to 5,000 per acre, a significant burden for farmers operating on tight budgets. The larger concern is the lack of seamless availability, enabling the black market to thrive.
Consequently, farmers are compelled to either abandon urea application or resort to taking on more debt from middlemen or opting for third-rate alternatives, leading to more financial losses for farmers and the broader economy.
What adds to the complexity of the situation is the absence of the administrative machinery that successfully curbed smuggling across borders since September. Despite existing infrastructure, the regulation of prices in local markets remains a challenge, prompting questions about the efficacy of administrative efforts in addressing this critical issue.