Days after widespread complaints, state PSU Gujarat State Fertilizers & Chemicals Ltd management on Monday admitted that the 50 kg bags of ‘Sardar DAP’ (diammonium phosphate) it sold to farmers were found to be lighter, but it claimed that the loss of weight was essentially because of moisture.
The company, which suspended sales of the fertiliser bags on Friday after the Opposition Congress started conducting ‘janata raids’ following widespread complaints from across the state, said it would now begin sales of its fertilizer only after replacing all the bags at its 284 depots and even consider compensating the farmers.
“I would wish to begin sales from today itself, but it is not possible to replace all bags. It will take at least a week for us to weigh all the bags or replace them,” said GSFC managing director Sujit Gulati.
“We are committed and if a farmer brings back the bag unopened, we would replace it with a new bag after weighing it before him,” he said.
Gujarat Chief Secretary J.N. Singh, who is also the chairman of Gujarat State Fertilizers and Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers, had already ordered an investigation and also suspension of fertilizer sales from depots of both the companies on Saturday and Sunday. The suspension was extended on Monday too.
“We now hope to begin sales of fertilizers from depots in a day or two,” said Additional Chief Secretary for Agriculture Sanjay Prasad.
Gulati said besides loss of weight due to moisture, there could be mechanical and human errors while filling fertilisers in the plant. “I have ordered another investigation by an expert to identify the exact source or reason for the problem,” he said.
The GSFC MD added that a farmer who found the 50 kg bags lighter by 300 grams would have potentially lost Rs 14 rupees a bag, taking the total loss at Rs 16 lakh. “Only about 10 per cent of the total 80,000 metric tons produced has been sent out of Sikka unit where we manufacture DAP fertilizer,” he said.
“We would now fill an additional 100 grams to 120 grams over and above 50 kg so that such an issue of lower weight does not arise in future,” Gulati said. He said the company had about 32 lines to package the fertilizer at Sikka plant, which churns out 12-14 bags every minute.
Asked about allegations that the under-weight bags were being sold for over the last five years, Gulati said they had not received any complaint so far. “We could not imagine in the wildest of dreams that we would face issue of weight of bags being lower! It came as a surprise to us,” he said.