Monitoring system for fertilisers fails to gather steam

Monitoring system for fertilisers fails to gather steam
Unfamiliarity with system, unwillingness to share information seen as drawbacks
Shaikh Zoaib Saleem / New Delhi Apr 29, 2012, 00:10 IST
 http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/monitoring-system-for-fertilisers-fails-to-gather-steam/472879/

The ambitious mobile-based fertiliser monitoring system (mFMS), aimed at tracking the movement of fertilisers up to the retail level, does not seem to be popular among end users—the dealers and retailers. Just about 10,000 of the 170,000 registered on the system are responding to it.

Officials close to the project told Business Standard the number of responses was indeed small, something industry players also agreed with.

 

“The response was up to 1,000 in November, when the pilot of the mFMS was being run. The number has now reached somewhere around ten thousand,” said an official. After the pilot projects in November, the final tracking system was launched in January.

The official added the reasons for the slow growth were primarily unfamiliarity with the system and unwillingness to share information. “Many of the retailers do not respond to the system regularly, citing various reasons, when all it takes is just a little time. We have also incorporated many of the upgradations suggested by the industry in the application used for the system,” he said.

However, the irony is even among the small number of respondents, the majority of updates were through computers, not mobiles, defeating the very purpose of the mobile-based system. Currently, the system can be updated by both mobile phones, as well as computers.

Experts say the system cannot be implemented, unless some field officers are deployed to monitor the implementation and, at a later stage, retailers are mandatorily made to update the system. The government has constituted a sub-group, with members from the government and the industry, to test and monitor the system.

Government officials said most responses were coming from the cooperatives.

Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative (Iffco), which has about 45,000 retailers registered on the system, told Business Standard the response rate for it had touched 15 per cent. Iffco also said due to operational difficulties, the system was not working in remote areas, and this had been communicated to the National Informatics Centre (NIC). “We have asked the NIC not to release the final version of the application, as it is a difficult task to copy the software to the mobile phones of all retailers,” Iffco said.

Zuari Industries, a manufacturer of farm products, said the majority (about 80 per cent) of its dealers was responding to the system, and the company was not facing any problem with the current system. According to the mFMS database, Zuari has over 3,800 registered dealers on the system.

The system is aimed at tracking the movement of fertilisers to the farthest point possible–the retailers. The tracking gained importance after various reports of leakages and unavailability of fertilisers came to light. It was also scheduled to be used for the direct transfer of subsidy to retailers, as an intermediate step in the direct transfer of subsidy to farmers. However, after the industry voiced its concern, this aspect of the mFMS was put on the backburner.