ISLAMABAD - The country might witness urea crisis during the imminent Rabi season due to the gas suspension to fertilizer sector that would ultimately add woes and worries to the hard pressed farmers of the country, it has been learnt. The decision of Sui Northern Gas Company Limited (SNGPL) to stop gas supply to three fertilizer plants might aggravate worries of over burdened farmers as urea shortage might lead to its hoarding and high prices during the upcoming Rabi season, sources said on Wednesday. Suspension of the gas supply to one of Engro Corporations new fertilizer and Daud plant might trigger further raise in already high urea prices besides its hoarding and black marketing , sources said, adding that SNGPL had also stopped gas supply to Pak Arab plant last week, which has been badly affecting domestic production of urea. The country is likely to face shortage of urea during Rabi season even if 0.7 million tons urea is imported, sources added. It was also learnt that SNGPL had stopped this supply to meet the soaring demands of the power plants particularly while in general an effort to meet the demand supply gap growing up with each passing day. Sources in Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) have informed that consumption of urea in December is expected to touch its peak of 0.9 million tons so even if 0.7 million tons imported urea reaches the country during current month even then a shortfall of 0.2 million tons might worsen the situation. In a bid to meet the prevailing situation of necessity of urea import for the Rabi season 2011-12, the federal government had already granted special permission to match the lowest bid received against the tender, sources added. Farmers and growers while talking to TheNation shared worries and concerns over sharp decline in cotton prices in local market. They informed that urea prices have increased and gone above the level of Rs2000 per 50 kg bag in retail. They were worried over the current cotton prices in which brokers (middleman) or factory owners are going to pay them very low prices for their cotton crop below than Rs 2600 per mound. Additionally, some growers are also worried over the sharp decline in cotton prices in the international market, as this would reduce their margins while their input costs, like urea prices, are bound to jump. The quagmire of the energy crisis continues to damage the economy as decline and suspension in gas supplies is estimated to result in severe urea shortage in the upcoming Rabi season, badly affecting the wheat cultivation, a grower said, adding that the fertilizer companies also failed to maintain the urea stock as per advice by the concerned quarters as no one dares to check and monitor the fertilizer sector of the country. Furthermore, owing to high ceiling prices of urea in market, both farmers and growers believe that these prices would further shoot up to Rs2, 500 per 50 kg bag within the next 10 days as hoarding, black marketing and over charging has become routine practice of local market, exposing lack of monitoring from the concerned corners. It is relevant to mention that roughly Pakistans urea demand stand roughly 6.5 million tons per annum whereas local production is approximately 5.2 million tons while the country itself has the capacity of producing 6.8 million tons urea domestically. Further, urea constitutes over 60 per cent of the total fertilizer use in agriculture. To cover the shortfall, the government annually imports an average of $500 million worth of urea, in addition to bearing the subsidy for imported urea. Further, the TCP has awarded contracts for import of 260,000 so far at the lowest landed price of $538 per ton while fresh tender for import of the balance quantity of 440,000 tons has also been issued with November 10 as the date for opening of bids.