3.1 Trends in all India Urea Production, Import, Consumption, and Prices
To spot a pattern, trend analysis is the most common practice, hence, authors have adopted a trend analysis for understanding the growth pattern in terms of production, import, consumption, and prices of urea at the macro level. This technique is often used in extracting an underlying behavioural pattern based on a time-series data, which remains partly or wholly hidden by noise. This method helps understand how, and why, things have changed are likely to change over time and an estimation has been done using a simple or multiple regression analysis. Urea has a high nitrogen content (46%), can adapt to almost all types of land, and is widely used in the agricultural sector both as a fertilizer and animal feed additive and hence, urea is the most important nitrogenous fertilizer. Considering all these potential benefits, urea is the king of fertilizers.
The state-wise trends in consumption/sale of urea are presented in Table 2 and Figure 1. It is revealed from Table 2 that the consumption of urea has increased from 8542.92 thousand MTs in 2006-07 to 11376.76 thousand MTs in 2015-16 at the all India level with a growth rate of 2.94 per cent, and the growth is statistically significant at five per cent level. From among the selected states, Assam accounts for the highest growth rate (5.50%), followed by Madhya Pradesh (5.10%), Karnataka (2.92%), Maharashtra (2.13%), Punjab (1.92%), and Bihar for the least (1.81%), respectively. The percentage change over 2006-07 values to the existing values also reflects that the highest changeover has occurred in respect of Assam (102.10%), followed by Madhya Pradesh (68.85%), Karnataka (33.27%), Punjab (30.15%), Bihar (21.73%) and Maharashtra (15.86%). It is clear from the table that the changeover observed in consumption/ sales in the case of urea amounts to 33.17 per cent (Table 2), at the aggregate level.
3.2 Socio-Economic Characteristics of the Sample Households
The general characteristics of the overall sample farmers are shown in Table 3. The table reveals wide variations in the socio-economic characteristics of farmers across the sample states in relation to different crops. The average age of sample farmers across all the states works out to 46 years with a majority of them being male respondents. On an average, the sample farmer family consists of seven members, out of which, three have been engaged in farming for last 24 years. These characteristics are relatively common for all the respondents growing different crops and across States. Coming to literacy level, a majority (28%) of them have completed Pre-University and above, followed by primary schooling (23%), higher primary (21%) and matriculation (16%); however, about 12 per cent of them are found illiterates. Across crops, a majority (>60%) of the paddy, sugarcane and maize farmers have completed matriculation and above, while in respect of tur, soybean and jute, more than half of the farmers have studied up to higher primary level. At the aggregate, a majority of the sample farmers belong to general category (51%), followed by Other Backward Classes (OBCs) (29%), Scheduled Castes (11%) and Scheduled Tribes (7%) while in the case of maize, more than half of the farmers (58%) belong to OBC category. The proportion remains relatively the same in respect of all the crops.
3.3 Average Size of Operational Landholding of the Sample Farmers
The details of operational land holdings of the sample farmers are presented in Table 4. The table reveals that the average net operational area in the study region is comparatively higher in the case of sugarcane farmers (12.6 acres), followed by paddy farmers (10.80 acres), and tur farmers (10.34 acres). The least net operational area (6.37 acres) is observed for jute farmers. While in respect of the remaining cases such as soybean and maize, the net operational area works out to less than 10 acres. As usual, the highest operational land rests with large farmers only, in respect of all the sample crops, however, it is found to be as high as 27 acres in the case of sugarcane farmers, followed by maize (20.80 acre) and tur farmers (19.25 acres). Overall, a substantial proportion of the operational area is accounted for land owners (>7 acres) across all crops. Interestingly, the leased-in area seems to be highest in respect of paddy crop only (2.25 acres). Whereas the proportion is less than an acre/ household in respect of the rest of the crops. On the contrary, the leased-out area constitutes less than an acre across crops. However, it is highest (0.75 acre) in respect of maize crop in Bihar. Similarly, the proportion of uncultivated or fallow land is found to be negligible across sample farmers in the study area. With regard to irrigation, in addition to the irrigated crops such as paddy and sugarcane, soybean also accounts for a major area (>90% each) under irrigation from among the sample crops, and the remaining area comes under rainfed conditions. Additionally, the area under maize and jute crops covered under irrigation also constitutes more than 72 per cent. Whereas, tur is majorly grown under rainfed conditions both in the states of Karnataka and Maharashtra and hence, the proportion of rainfed area constitutes more (71%) in the case of tur crop. However, about 29 per cent of the farmers grow tur under irrigated conditions as well. It is noted that across categories of farmers, a higher proportion of irrigated land is accounted for by small farmers, followed by medium, and large farmers in respect of almost all the irrigated crops.
The average rental value of leased-in land amounts to a maximum of Rs.15,231/ acre for paddy, followed by soybean (Rs.13,639/ acre) and jute (Rs. 5,696/ acre), while it is less than Rs. 5,000/ acre in the case of tur and sugarcane crops. At the same time, across categories, the rental value of leased-in land is highest (Rs.18,507/acre) for small farmers, followed by medium farmers (Rs. 14,810/ acre), in respect of paddy, whereas, it is medium farmers (Rs. 14,417/acre), followed by small farmers (Rs. 13,300/ acre) in the case of soybean crop. Relatively, the same situation prevails across other crops. On the other hand, the rental value of leased-out land is slightly less than the value of leased-in land in the sample area. Similar to the rental value of leased-in land, the leased-out land value is highest in respect of paddy (Rs. 11,916/ acre), followed by soybean (Rs. 11,286/ acre). However, the leased-out land value of small farmers in the case of paddy is highest (Rs. 20,294/ acre), as compared to the rental values of leased-in and leased-out land across all crops. Interestingly, no sample farmers are found engaged in leasing-in and leasing-out activities, in respect of maize and sugarcane crops, respectively.
3.4 Cropping Pattern Adopted by the Sample Farmers in the Study Area
Given the land resources, agricultural production and profitability can be increased through adoption of a scientific cropping pattern. The adoption of technology in respect of cropping system depends on many factors such as physical and socio-economic resources, available or made available, at a time, when they are needed most. In this background, the cropping pattern followed by different categories of farm households has been analyzed and results presented in Table 5.
Paddy-farmers across the states grow cereals as the major crops with a share of 68.95 per cent in the gross cropped area, followed by commercial crops (9.09%), horticultural and fodder crops (12.59%). Whereas, tur farmers across the states grow pulses as the major crops with a share of 35.74 per cent in the gross cropped area, followed by oilseed (30.56%), horticultural and fodder crops (15.56%), cereal crops (9.20%) and oilseed crops (8.33%). It reveals that the location-specific and farm-based cropping patterns have to be evolved with a due consideration given to the vital determinants such as land, topography, water availability, intensity and duration of sunlight, labour availability, cash or credit, power source and market demand. Among different crops cultivated by sugarcane farm households, commercial crops are the major crops with a share of 61.93 per cent in the gross cropped area, followed by cereals, oilseeds and horticulture and fodder crops, with a share of about 12 per cent each in the gross cropped area. Further, the small size of land holding does not prevent these farmers from growing perennial crops.
Maize-farmers across the states grow crops like paddy, maize and soybean. It is evident from the table that cereal crops account for as high as 86.91 per cent of the gross cropped area, followed by oilseeds (about 12%). Whereas, soybean farmers across the states grow crops like paddy, soybean and cotton as their major crops. Among them, oilseed crop alone accounts for as high as 76.94 per cent of the cropped area, followed by cotton as a commercial crop (18.82%) and the least (4.23%) in the case of cereal crops. It is a good practice followed by soybean farmers as part of being risk-averse and also from the view point of generating income from other sources such as dairy-farming and cultivation of commercial crops such as pulses, cotton and cereals. However, in the case of jute farmers, jute apart, other crops are grown only for their subsistence. The cropping pattern is dominated by jute and paddy, accounting for around 74.79 per cent and 18.94 per cent of the gross cropped area, respectively. Further, jute farmers are found to have devoted about 6.27 per cent of GCA for vegetable production.
3.5 Impact of NCU on Production and Marketing of Reference Crops
During the reference period (Kharif 2015), both NU and NCU were available in the market across the study area before the government made mandatory the production (100%) and distribution of NCU throughout the country. Therefore, an effort was made by the study to compare the impact of NU and NCU on the production and productivity of reference crops across states in India. The details of the impact of NCU on production and marketing of reference crops are presented in Table 6. A perusal of the table reveals that out of the sample crops, the average main product yield of soybean was highest in the case of NCU users (5.32 quintals/acre), as compared to NU users (3.86 quintals/acre), accounting for a statistically significant increase in the yield levels at 37.82 per cent, followed by tur (33.68%) and maize (7.99%). This is due to the presence of neem content in urea, which slows down the release of nitrogen, as a result, 'N' is available to plants for a longer period, as compared to NU and concomitantly reduces the frequency of application and consumption of urea fertilizer. These results also conform to the study findings of John et.al., (1989), who found a significant increase in grain yield of rice based on their successive field experiments. Similarly, in terms of by-product yield, the increase in yield amounts to 23.31 per cent, as compared to that of tur crop in the context of NU application, followed by soybean (11.14%). This increase in yield is found to be statistically significant. In the cases of paddy and sugarcane, the prices of the main product appear to be relatively the same with regard to NCU and NU. The per cent change over post NCU application in place of NU varies within two per cent, whereas, in respect of tur, jute, maize and soybean crops, the prices seem to have decreased to the tune of 2.38, 0.53, 2.50 and 12.35 per cent, respectively, which could be due to market imperfections. Similarly, in the case of by-product price, the per cent change in respect of NCU, as compared to NU, amounts to 16.57 per cent in the case of sugarcane, followed by soybean (9.81 %) and paddy (8.98 %). The increase in the price of sugarcane by-product from Rs.356/ bundle (without NCU) to Rs. 415/ bundle (with NCU) might be attributed to the application of NCU, in addition to many other factors. Further, a majority of the farmers also have reported an increase in the quality of both the main product and by-product yields, post NCU application. With respect to statistical significance, most of the prices of reference crops appear to be non-significant. Depending upon the prices of both the main product and by-product, the value of main product and by-product of tur crop show an increase of 32.23 per cent and 38.15 per cent, respectively, post the adoption of NCU in place of NU at the aggregate level, and is found statistically significant at one per cent level for the values of main product and non-significant for by-product.
3.6 Impact of NCU Use on the Component-Wise Cost of Reference Crops
The details of the impact of NCU on the input costs of reference crops across the sample states are presented in Table 7. To assess the impact of NCU usage on input costs, parameters such as the cost of pest and disease control, the cost of weed management, the cost of NCU or NU, and the cost of other fertilizers were considered. Table 7 reveals a comparative picture of the input costs of NCU and NU using farmers. A perusal of the table reveals that the total cost of the selected inputs has increased for NCU users (Rs.3,833/acre), as compared to NU users (Rs.2,192/acre), to the extent of 74.86 per cent in respect of tur crop, followed by maize (14.30%) and paddy (4.48%), while in contrast, crops like jute and soybean show a decline in per cent change, at the aggregate level. Whereas, the cost illustrates a decreasing scenario in respect of all the parameters, excepting the cost of other fertilizers for paddy and soybean farmers, respectively. An increasing trend in the cost of pest and diseases control, weed management, and other fertilizers can be seen in respect of tur (6.65% ,40.24% ,67.72%) and sugarcane (22.49%, 0.49%, 4.83%), respectively. In terms of disparity, the decreasing trend in the cost of NCU/ NU works out to 0.19, 16.78, 15.34, and 3.50 per cent for paddy, jute, sugarcane and soybean, respectively.
3.7 Economic Feasibility of NCU Use for Reference Crops Using Partial Budgeting Technique
An economic feasibility analysis of NCU use, often with and without NCU, approach has been used for identifying and assessing the costs and benefits as part of an evaluation of the current situation, more meaningfully. The difference between the costs and benefits is the net incremental benefit arising from NCU usage. However, a before and after approach has not been used in this framework on account of changes in production that would have occurred due to regular developments, along with NCU usage. While assessing the benefits and costs of NCU usage, only incremental net benefits need to be considered, with the reduced benefits treated as costs. The benefits foregone need to be taken as a cost component of NCU usage. Thereby, only incremental value could be attributed to NCU. Hence, a partial budget technique has been used for assessing the incremental income based on a small change in farm business post NCU application. In the present article, a partial budgeting framework has been estimated for variables such as additional income, reduced costs, reduced income and additional costs, following a small change in NCU use vis-a-vis NU. The budget indicates whether the change has increased/ decreased/ no change in the net income with the adoption of NCU. Also, the partial budget compares both the positive and negative effects of a change with NCU use in relation to NU, or an incremental income accruing from reference crops.
The impact of NCU, based on a partial budgeting technique, considering added and reduced costs with NCU application for reference crops is estimated and presented in Table 8. It can be seen from the table that there is a positive impact of the economic feasibility of NCU use on reference crops. The variables considered for estimating a partial budgeting framework in the study include the cost of pest and disease control, cost of weed management, cost of NCU/NU, and the cost of other fertilizers. In the table, only cost and returns are highlighted. At the aggregate level, the added costs with NCU application appear to be as high as Rs. 1,685.87 per acre in the case of maize, followed by tur (Rs. 1,300/acre) and soybean (Rs. 1,141/acre), respectively.
It is exceptional to note that the reduced returns have been reported highest in the case of sugarcane (Rs. 5,749/acre), followed by soybean (Rs. 3,942/acre) and maize (Rs. 1,965/acre). Instead, added returns both in terms of the main product and by-product yields are noticed in respect of tur (Rs. 16,558 per acre) and paddy producers (Rs. 2,943/acre) only because of the adoption of NCU in place of NU. Whereas, reduced costs with NCU application are observed for almost all the sample crops with varying amounts. However, the reduced costs are found to be highest in the case of paddy (Rs. 227/acre), followed by sugarcane (Rs. 149/acre) and maize (Rs. 84/acre). This is the positive impact of NCU adoption in lieu of NU, in addition to other favourable factors. Using the same information, the benefit-cost ratio has been arrived at and presented in the same table. It is very much interesting to note that the BC ratio is more than 10 in respect of tur and sugarcane crops, meaning that, for every one rupee of investment on NCU application, there has been a rise in returns to the extent of Rs. 10. As regards paddy and soybean, the ratio works out to more than three per cent, while it is least (<1%) in the case of maize. These results illustrate that the application of NCU has had a positive impact in terms of both increased yield and income due to reduced costs for the farmers.
3.8. Diversion of Urea for Other than Agricultural Purposes
Based on the study, what can be inferred is that a majority of the farmers have used normal urea in smaller proportions as a feed to cattle and fishes, mixing with milk to enhance fat content, distilling local alcohol etc. However, the usage of urea has been completely stopped, post the introduction of NCU.