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March 3, 2021

Introduction of Punjab Fertilizer Bill 2020: Fertilizer industry for taking all stakeholders on board

National

March 3, 2021

LAHORE: The fertilizer industry has asked the Punjab government to take all stakeholders on board while introducing the Punjab Fertilizer Bill 2020 for a more judicious view and avoiding any issue after the bill is introduced.

A committee headed by Law Minister Raja Basharat is currently reviewing the draft of the Punjab Fertilizer Bill 2020. However, the industry officials believe that input from stakeholders always strengthens the legislation by addressing the implementation issues at the drafting stage. The industry officials believed if the all stakeholders are not addressed at the drafting stage, it may lead to disruption of business environment. The proposed laws are against the spirit of the Fertilizer Policy 2001 which provides for deregulation of fertilizer products. Hence, it may lead to chaos at the national level. The fertilizer being a product used nationwide has to be governed by national and international standards laid down by international agencies and PSQCA and prices have to be ensured in line with the National Fertilizer Policy.

The industry officials pointed out that the operational details with respect to laboratory tests, etc (Section 14) included in the draft should normally be covered in rules, instead of legislation, which in the present form would require the involvement of the Provincial Assembly for trivial procedural corrections/adjustments that may be required due to technical or marketing developments. They pointed out that the preamble of the bill stated the objective to regulate the production, quality, supply, distribution, storage, sale and prices of fertilizers. However, this is a reproduction of the existing FCO which was in place before the issuance of the Fertilizer Policy 2001. Under the Fertilizer Policy 2001, fertilizer is a deregulated product.

Further, Section 7 of the bill allows Punjab to notify fertilizer prices. This has the potential of variation in prices across the country that may lead to chaos at the national level as the factories are located across the country.

The industry officials pointed out that the Agriculture Department has crop experts whose expertise does not extend to industrial matters which have the potential to impact the agriculture industry in particular and Pakistan’s economy in general. Their role should thus be limited to monitor fertilizer availability and quality as per national/international standards. The stated objective of the bill is ambitious in view of envisaged operational limitations and capacity issues at the provincial level.

The industry officials said the industrial matters fall under the ambit of the Ministry of Industries and Production under MOIP and the Fertilizer Review Committee (FRC) is fully authorized to take decisions on fertilizer availability based on national inventory levels. All the provinces are formally part of FRC. This task of manufacture, supply, distribution and storage cannot be undertaken by any single province in isolation. This may lead to disharmony among the provinces and troubles for the federation. Fertilizer Manufacturers of Pakistan Advisory Council Executive Director Sher Shah Malik said there is the need for reviewing some Sections including 3(1), 13(2), 14(3), 20(1) and definitions of substandard and adulterated in the proposed bill. He said the industry supports the government regarding petty manufacturing units which should be checked through quality mechanism.

Currently, fertilizer plants are located across the country catering to national needs and any provincial regulation of the product is likely to lead to complications at the national level. The bill should provide that all rules and regulations will be developed in consultation with the fertilizer industry. This is very critical to safeguard the industry interests and avoid unnecessary conflict. “We requested Law Minister Raja Basharat to listen to our concerns and address them”, he added.

Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat said the government will take all stakeholders on board before laying the bill in the assembly. “The bill was referred by the chief minister to the Cabinet Committee on Legislative Business while the meeting of the committee will be held the day after tomorrow,” he said, adding that all issues and concerns would be addressed in the meeting. Further, the stakeholders would be taken on board and would be listened to address their concerns after the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Legislative Business.