Despite the invasion of Ukraine, Indian imports of Russian fertilizers on the rise

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NEW DELHI – India has dramatically increased its fertilizer imports from Russia in recent months, demonstrating the difficulties the United States and its allies are facing in isolating Moscow following the invasion of Ukraine.

From April to June, India imported 7.74 million tonnes of Russian fertilizer, a figure accounting for around two-thirds of all its fertilizer imports from Russia last year, making the country the India’s supplier, according to information provided to Parliament by the Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Mansukh Mandaviya.

These shipments, including urea and nitrogen-based fertilizers, come on top of record imports of discounted Russian oil. Although Persian Gulf countries remain India’s main suppliers of crude oil, India bought about 1 million barrels a day from Russia in July, a sharp increase since the start of the year, according to Bloomberg. News. Government data shows India spent $3.7 billion on Russian oil between January and May, up more than 350% from the same period last year.

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As the war in Ukraine continues, the challenge facing Western countries in trying to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military campaign without harming the world’s poorest is also growing. UN Secretary General António Guterres recently warned that vulnerable countries would be on the brink of starvation without Russian food and fertilizer.

“There is no other choice,” agriculture expert Devinder Sharma said of India’s surge in fertilizer imports from Russia. “Agricultural production will be strained without an adequate supply of fertilizers.”

Unlike oil, fertilizers are not included in US sanctions imposed on Russia due to the invasion.

For India, this year’s monsoon rice harvest is crucial after a scorching heat wave in March damaged the country’s staple wheat crop and reduced yields. With food stocks depleted and the climate uncertain, India banned wheat exports this year, saying its food security was “at risk”.

The country has been reluctant to join the Western coalition pitted against Russia, first because of its reliance on Moscow for weapons and now because of concerns over energy and food security.

India’s imports of Russian coal and sunflower oil also surged. Overall, Russia has become India’s 10th largest source of imports, according to data from India’s Ministry of Trade and Industry, ranking much higher than in previous years. Until May, India imported goods worth $8.3 billion from Russia, almost triple the value of the same period last year.

Indian officials have criticized what they describe as the West’s doublespeak over trade relations with Russia, noting that Europe continues to buy crude oil and natural gas from Moscow. “The new package of [European] the sanctions are designed to take into account the well-being of its people,” Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar said in June. “People need to understand that if you can be considerate of yourself, surely you can be considerate of others.”

Although the local production of urea, the most used fertilizer in India, is able to meet most of India’s needs, the country depends on imports of raw materials for potassium-based fertilizers, d nitrogen and phosphate. India turned to Russian shipments after its main fertilizer supplier, China, imposed restrictions on fertilizer exports last year to protect its own farmers from soaring domestic prices.

Russia has also limited its overall fertilizer exports since last year, but continued to supply India. A report by the Indian Express newspaper suggested that Russian fertilizers were available at cheaper rates than market prices. Officials with the Department of Chemicals and Fertilizers did not respond to a request for comment.

The challenge for the Indian authorities is twofold: ensuring an adequate supply for farmers and keeping fertilizers affordable. An industry expert who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue said fertilizer on the open market was trading at three times its price last year.

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India is in a difficult position as it depends on fertilizer imports at a time of high world prices, said Manjari Chatterjee Miller, senior South Asia researcher at the Foreign Affairs Council.

She said the Biden administration had, so far, been “remarkably understanding” of India’s stance on oil and other imports from Russia and the issue was not likely to hurt. to relations between countries. “In the long term, it will depend on how the Ukraine crisis unfolds and whether India and the United States both decide that the costs of deepening their partnership are too high. But that seems unlikely,” she said.

India is not the only developing country facing such difficult choices. Brazil depends on fertilizer imports for its precious soybean crop, and a fifth of its supplies come from Russia, according to the Quartz publication.

Brazil’s ambassador to Russia said the two countries had managed to circumvent logistical and payment difficulties posed by the sanctions and that Brazil was receiving Russian fertilizer shipments, according to a June report by the agency. Russian press Tass.

“Since we have excellent relations with Russia in the field of trade and supply [of fertilizers] continue, I see no reason to look for them in a different place. We continue to receive fertilizers from Russia,” Ambassador Rodrigo de Lima Baena Soares said, according to the Tass report.

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Sanctions researcher Edoardo Saravalle, alumnus of the Center for a New American Security, said providing alternative sources of imports would be necessary if countries like India were not to turn to Russia.

Although some countries continued to trade with Russia, economic isolation weighed on it. A recent study by researchers at Yale University, using trade and shipping data, suggests that international sanctions and corporate withdrawal from Russia have seriously hurt the country’s economy.

Russia’s position as a raw materials exporter has ‘irrevocably deteriorated’, it struggles to import parts and technology from ‘hesitant trading partners’ and domestic production has ‘come to a complete halt’ , concludes the study.

Saravalle said the sanctions were effective in inflicting suffering on Russia even if they did not end its war in Ukraine.

“You’re never going to achieve a complete blockade,” Saravalle said. “We are still in the early stages of this conflict. The sanctions against Iran were the product of years of accumulation.

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