Shutdown of Sterlite Copper has Negatively impacted Fertilizer Industry

Small and medium sized fertilizer manufacturing industries in Tamil Nadu are reportedly in distress due to unavailability of sulphuric acid at affordable prices following the shut down of Sterlite’s copper smelter in Tuticorin.

The Tuticorin plant was the biggest source for sulphuric acid in Southern India. But now after the plant’s closer, industries are forced to import the material from Northern parts in higher prices. “At present, the industry is in a dire state. Many small and mid-sized players are plagued by rising input costs. Sulphuric acid, one of the key ingredients in the manufacturing process, is in short supply in south India,” said Vidyaprakash D, managing director, Coimbatore Pioneer Fertilizer.

“Coimbatore Pioneer Fertilizer sourced 100% of its sulphuric acid requirement from Sterlite Copper at concessional prices. They are one among many small and mid-sized industries who were sourcing their daily requirement from the smelter,” he said.

“The recent shutdown of Sterlite Copper has negatively impacted this industry. These units are now caught between sourcing high priced sulphuric acid through imports or using low-strength spent sulphuric acid that would affect the quality of fertilisers and risk losing their market standing,” Vidyaprakash stated.

Putting emphasis on a locally available source for sulphuric acid, he claimed that the rates have risen by 300% in last few months. “Rising costs of inputs will put undue pressure on an already distressed industry. We will absorb some (of the increase) and pass on some of the cost to farmers,” Vidyaprakash stated. “Ultimately, the government should enable farmers to sell their produce at a profit instead of continuing an environment that will burden them with debt,” he said.

Coimbatore Pioneer Fertilizer’s requirement of sulphuric acid to run at full capacity is over 2000 tonnes per month. “The government has left small and mid-sized manufacturers grappling with increasing costs and has also locked up subsidy funds. Many superphosphate units have now either lowered capacities to as much as 30% or closed down for good,” Vidyaprakash said.

Coimbatore Pioneer Fertilizer is a mid-sized manufacturer with an annual capacity of 66000 tonnes per year.

The unit produces the fertiliser ‘Single Superphosphate (SSP)’ for use in various crops like millets, sugarcane, potato, banana and various oil seeds. SSP is a base fertiliser providing plants with essential nutrients for better root and stem growth and increased crop yield.

The company claims a market share of 40% in Tamil Nadu and 70% in Kerala.

(With inputs from TOI)