KARACHI - The black-marketing of fertilizer especially Urea is at its peak all over the country as a result the retail price of Urea has doubled, from Rs 625 per bag ex-factory rate to retail price of Rs 1200. The artificial shortage due to manipulation of market forces is leading to record hike of prices of the commodity in country. According to farmers, the black marketing of Urea was increasing and it was being sold at the prices of Rs 1150 per bag in Punjab to Rs1200 per bag in Sindh although Urea is rarely available at retail stage. The government had set the ex-factory rate of Urea at Rs 625 per bag but dealers were fleecing the growers and minting the money illegally. The growers and agriculture experts have attributed this shortage and hike in prices of fertilizer with lack of governance and poor writ of law in the country. The representatives of growers' organizations while talking to The Nation maintained that the use of urea for cotton and rice crops from 31st August to mid-September 15 for rice because both the crops were near harvest. The use of Urea was necessary for robust increase of yield of both crops but lack of supply and artificial scarcity of this fertilizer likely to lead in decline of overall production of both crops, experts said. "The Punjab was the worst victim of fertilizer dealers who have created artificial shortage of Urea and slowed the supply of commodity to growers in all over the province", President Pakistan Agri Forum Ibrahim Mughal while talking The Nation said, adding the prices of Urea have shot-up to Rs 1000 to Rs 1150 per bag in various areas of the province. Punjab contributes 80 percent of national agriculture and the artificial scarcity of Urea will lead to decline in production of all the crops of Kharif season, he predicted. Attributing the non-availability of Urea and diseases, the growers' leader forecasted that the country would face shortfall of over 2 million bales of cotton and target of 14.10 million bales of cotton output would not be achieved this year. "There is no shortage of fertilizer in the country but lack of writ of government has encouraged the fertilizer companies and dealers for hoarding of the commodity", he observed and added the market forces relating to fertilizer have made equal to 10 years profit within one year because they were exempted from additional charges of gas and GST by government. The availability of Urea was more than Kharif consumption of 30 million tons in country but dealers manipulated the market and started the black marketing of the fertilizer aimed to fleecing the growers, he said. He predicted that textile sector will be ultimate sufferer of less production of cotton and country would have to spent additional amount of Rs 60 billion to import raw cotton in current FY09. Meanwhile, another growers' leader Mahmood Nawaz Shah told The Nation that against annual consumption of 5.4 million tons, the local production of Urea was 4.8 million tons, which showed that country faced only 0.6 million tons shortage of Urea. So far, over 0.3 million tons Urea has been imported by the country, he informed and said the actual problem was supply not scarcity of fertilizer and government has to take measurement of smooth supply of urea to growers. While provincial minister of Agriculture Department of Sindh Syed Ali Nawaz Shah while talking to The Nation stated that the district committees had already been formed which consisted on DCOs, DPOs and concerned districts' member provincial assemblies. To ensure smooth supply of fertilizer, minister said these committees are authorized to take action against hoarders of fertilizers. The shortage will be eliminated very soon as imported fertilizer had reached the country and being dispatched throughout the province, minister claimed.