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NEW DELHI : The Union cabinet on Wednesday increased the nutrient-based subsidy (NBS) rates for phosphatic and potassic (P&K) fertilizers including diammonium phosphate (DAP), in an attempt to support farmers struggling with rising commodity prices during the ongoing crop season.

Farmers will now receive a subsidy of 1,200 per DAP bag against the previous cap of 500, at an additional cost of 14,775 crore to the exchequer, the government said after a cabinet meeting.

“In the last few months, global prices of raw materials of DAP and other P&K fertilizers have increased sharply. Prices of finished DAP, etc., in global markets have also increased. Despite this sharp increase, DAP prices in India were initially not increased by companies; however, some companies raised DAP price in the beginning of this fiscal. The government is fully sensitive to the concerns of farmers also, and is already taking steps to tackle the situation so that farming community can be saved from the effects of this price rise of P&K fertilizers (including DAP)," an official statement said.

“Considering this crisis of pricing of DAP in India as an extraordinary situation and distress for farmers, GoI has increased subsidy rates under NBS scheme as a special package for farmers in such a way that maximum retail price of DAP including other P&K fertilizers can be kept at last year’s level till the present kharif season. This has been done as a one-time measure as covid package to reduce hardships of farmers," the Centre added.

International prices may come down in a few months after the ongoing crop season, and the government may review the situation and fix the subsidy rate accordingly, the statement said.

Fertilizer subsidy is fixed by the government in advance while the retail price may see some fluctuations depending on the international price of the commodity. Unlike subsidized cooking gas where subsidy is paid directly to the consumer, the government gives fertilizer subsidy to fertilizer companies, which in turn sell the product at a reduced price. The government tracks sales through point-of-sale machines installed at retail outlets.

The government has taken a series of pro-farmer decisions in the recent past, which are seen as a concerted effort to placate farmers protesting over the new farm laws. The Union government last month released the eighth instalment of PM Kisan scheme by transferring over 20,000 crore to about 95 million farmers. Similarly, the cabinet also hiked the minimum support price (MSP) on several crops including paddy and pulses earlier this month.

Thousands of farmers are on a sit-in protest on the Delhi-Haryana border for almost seven months now, demanding withdrawal of recently-approved farm laws.

The cabinet also approved a deep ocean mission to search for resources and develop deep-sea technologies for sustainable use of ocean resources. The five-year mission, with an expenditure of 4,077 crore, will help in studying ocean biology and climate change, and establish offshore stations to explore energy resources.

Union minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters that only five countries—US, Russia, France, Japan and China—have this technology currently.

“The mission will notice changes, because of climate change, to study more deep-sea biodiversity. There will be deep sea survey. There will be advanced marine station for ocean biology. And there will also be offshore ocean station (to explore) thermal energy as part of the mission," Javadekar said, adding that this will aid the ‘blue economy’.

Some of the mission’s key components includes developing a manned submersible to carry three people to a depth of 6,000 metres with a suite of scientific sensors and tools, develop know how on climate variables on seasonal to decadal time scales, and aid technological innovations for exploration and conservation of deep-sea biodiversity. The mission will also support “development of human capacity and enterprise in ocean biology and engineering. This component will translate research into industrial application and product development through on-site business incubator facilities", the Union cabinet said.

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