Around 0.2 million tonnes of urea fertiliser, worth Tk 3.60 billion, are being smuggled to Myanmar annually as smugglers send the agricultural input across the border in exchange for other products in an informal barter trade.
Smugglers use the fertiliser as payment for items like fish, salt, liquor and spices, sources in the business circle confirmed.
A portion of smuggled fertiliser is also used for bringing in Chinese products that also enter into Bangladesh via Myanmar, the sources added.
A number of Chittagong and southeastern Cox's Bazar-based syndicates are allegedly involved in smuggling fertiliser, using mainly river and sea routes.
Market sources said farmers in the country buy per kilogram of urea at Tk 6.0 while in Myanmar its rate is worth equivalent to Tk 18. Bangladeshi smugglers benefit from the huge price difference of Tk 12 to 13 per kilogram.
Concerned authorities of the six state-run fertiliser industries have already set a production target of 1.9 million tonnes this year against the projected demand for about 2.8 million tonnes.
The government has decided to meet the shortfall by importing 0.6 million tonnes from global market and procuring 0.3 million tonnes from KAFCO, sources in the Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation (BCIC) said.
"We have a buffer stock of 0.2 million tonnes of fertiliser to meet its growing demand," a senior BCIC official told the FE Monday.
He ruled out any possibility of fertiliser crisis in the country in near future.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Fertiliser Association (BFA) has asked its 4,800 dealers across the country to sell the agriculture input to the farmers in sealed bag, and not in bulk quantity to prevent corruption in fertiliser trade.
"We have sent the massage to our dealers to follow the advice to prevent incident like smuggling," Chairman of the BFA Kafiluddin Ahmed told the FE, adding that smuggling of fertiliser has slightly been controlled following the deployment of RAB in the different border areas.
Eight people were arrested last Thursday in Chakoria and Ramu Upazilas in Cox's Bazar district while allegedly trying to smuggle fertiliser to Myanmar.
The men were arrested by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) during a crackdown in the area. The RAB seized 296 bags of fertiliser loaded in three trucks.