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CMD shares company’s journey, road map & the misunderstanding over shutdown
Guwahati: Brahmaputra Valley Fertilizer Corporation Limited (BVFCL) is a prominent player in India’s fertiliser industry as well as the agriculture sector. A pioneer in India in the production of urea from natural gas, BVFCL with its rich history dating back to 1969, has been an integral part of the North East’s growth story and it continues to play a pivotal role in serving the region’s farming community.
Under the visionary leadership of its Chairman and Managing Director, BVFCL has seen remarkable advancements and contributions to the fertiliser industry, both in India and the neighbouring countries.
In an exclusive interview with Business-Northeast, CMD Siv Prasad Mohanty shares its commitment to sustainable agriculture and its plans.
BNE: Can you provide an overview of Brahmaputra Valley Fertilizer Corporation Limited and its history?
CMD: BVFCL was established in 1969 following the first gas discovery in the North East. The Government of India recognised the need for a fertiliser plant to process this gas and prevent wasteful burning. Our journey began with the Namrup-I plant, followed by Namrup-II in 1976, and currently, we have the Namrup-III plant, which has been operational since 1986. We're also in the process of establishing the Namrup-IV plant.
Moreover, after January 2020, we have achieved the highest-ever production, reaching almost 90% of capacity utilisation. We anticipate reaching 100% utilisation in the coming years.
BNE: Can you give us an overview of the manufacturing plants?
CMD: Of course, our plant initially had a capacity of 400,000 tonnes, but currently, it stands at 270,000 tonnes. Last year, we produced around 225,000 tonnes, and we're approaching our full capacity. Our main source of raw material is natural gas supplied by OIL India, and the urea we produce is distributed in northeastern states like Assam, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, and Meghalaya. So, there's no urea shortage for farmers in the North East.
BNE: How this plant has served the agricultural industry of the North East?
CMD: Our primary goal is to serve the farmers of the Northeast by supplying quality urea and ensuring a surplus quantity, so every farmer has access to it. In addition to manufacturing urea, we also produce bio and organic fertilizers, which are available in standard markets throughout the region. Even states like Manipur and Mizoram have access to our products, ensuring they reach every corner of the North East.
BNE: There were reports of closure of BVFCL. What is the real story?
CMD: That was an unfortunate misunderstanding stemming from a parliamentary questionnaire. Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers, Mansukh Mandaviya has clarified that BVFCL will not shut down. In fact, our production has increased from 80% capacity to 90% in the past year, and the company is operating well. We’re here to stay and serve the agricultural needs of the Northeast for years to come.
BNE: What is the update post the government’s announcement to establish another plant at BVFCL?
CMD: The government plans to establish a new plant with more advanced technology to replace the older one currently in operation. This new plant, known as Namrup-IV, will have a capacity of 12,00,000 tonnes, significantly higher than the existing plant's capacity of 2,00,000 tonnes. It will make us more self-sufficient and enable exports to the neighbouring countries like Myanmar, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
BNE: Is BVFCL planning to export fertiliser?
CMD: We have exported to a few countries, but further exports depend on the Indian government’s approval. Currently, India consumes 350 lakh tonnes of urea, while our capacity is 320 lakh tonnes, leaving a deficit of 30 lakh tonnes. Our priority is to cater to our domestic farmers first, but if we establish additional capacity, we may resume exports.
BNE: How is the fertiliser industry shaping up in Assam particularly?
CMD: The fertilizer industry in Assam, and India in general, is evolving. There’s a shift from conventional chemical fertilizers to bio and organic fertilisers as recommended by the government. In the North East, BVFCL is actively promoting the use of these sustainable fertilisers to preserve soil health and improve productivity. We’re also planning to set up a nano urea plant in Namrup, which will revolutionise farming by allowing for direct leaf application, minimising soil impact.
There is already a private player who provides the technology, Ray Nanoscience, a US-based company with operations in Gujarat. The factory will be put into operation in a year. The nano urea facility would be able to produce 1.5 lakh bottles each day. Our bottle plant will cost Rs 4.5 crore. Each bottle is equivalent to a bag of urea weighing 45–55 kg. As a result, our revenue will increase by Rs 700 crore. The North East’s dynamics could be altered by this one plant.
BNE: What regulatory and compliance standards does the company adhere to in its industry?
CMD: We follow a balanced fertiliser approach, and urea prices remain stable to ensure its affordability. The government recommends a 4:2:1 NPK ratio for fertiliser application, but in Assam, the ratio ie; 8:3:1 is often higher in favour of urea. We’re working to educate farmers about the importance of maintaining soil health by using the recommended ratios. Since farmers believe that applying more urea will increase productivity, they find it difficult to adapt to changes. Massive fertiliser use has no effect on agricultural output; it merely degrades the health of the soil. The only thing increased is grain. The excess urea is assimilated in the soil rather than by the plants. Therefore, exerting extra effort won't increase production.
BNE: Have there been any recent technological advancements or innovations in your production processes?
CMD: While we’ve recently returned to profitability after five to six years of losses, we plan to invest more in research and development for technological innovations. One significant development is the introduction of ‘sulphur-coated urea’, which the Prime Minister announced last year. We’re currently working on producing this type of urea.