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EFERT’s CFO calls for an end to discriminatory gas pricing

EFERT's CFO calls for an end to discriminatory gas pricing
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March 07, 2024 (MLN): By removing discriminatory gas pricing among fertilizer manufacturers, the government will be able to facilitate new investments and promote efficiency to ensure sufficient urea availability for the farmers, Ali Rathore, Chief Financial Officer of Engro Fertilizers Limited (EFERT) stated during a media workshop.

The CFO briefed the participants about the importance of a robust indigenous fertilizer industry, its key challenges and opportunities, and recent steps taken by the Government to reform the fertilizer sector. 

The removal of subsidies for fertilizer manufacturers on the Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGC) and Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) network, which represents 60% of all fertilizer manufacturing capacity, is a step in the right direction, according to Ali Rathore.

While gas prices for SSGC and SNGPL networks have increased by around 200%, the manufacturers on the Mari network (Fauji Fertilizer Company (FFC) and Fatima Fertilizer Company (FATIMA) are still receiving gas at the subsidized price of Rs580/mmbtu.

"This discriminatory gas pricing in the industry has led to multiple prices in the market and will not help the government achieve its fiscal objectives,” he highlighted. 

The urea prices of Fauji Fertilizer Bin Qasim Limited (FFBL), EFERT and FFC now stand at Rs5,489 per bag, Rs4,649 per bag and Rs3,767 per bag, respectively. This price discrepancy has created an opportunity for the middlemen to profiteer by Rs80 to Rs100bn.

A homogenous gas price will create a level-playing field for all fertilizer manufacturers in terms of input costs and help stabilize urea prices in the country.

Rathore Ali asserted that “Complete removal of subsidies and unification of gas prices for the entire industry can help the government earn an additional Rs80 to Rs100bn, which can then be used for targeted initiatives that uplift the farmers.”

He also appreciated the incoming government’s resolve to continue reforms in the fertilizer industry and provide direct subsidies to farmers. 

The briefing underscored the need to introduce long-term policies for the domestic fertilizer industry so that it may support sustained economic growth and the envisaged goals of Green Initiative Pakistan.

The domestic fertilizer industry is committed to ensuring abundant and affordable urea supplies, and locally-produced urea is still around 30% cheaper than imported urea.

Further, the industry recently supported the government by uplifting around 220,000 tons of urea at imported prices. It is important to note that Engro has not increased the selling price of imported urea to facilitate the Government in providing support to farmers.

Ali pointed out that even though Pakistan has the fifth highest urea consumption in the world, it is not investing in capacity growth despite a rapid surge in population.

To encourage further capacity expansion by fertilizer manufacturers, there is a dire need to introduce a consistent and homogeneous policy for gas pricing for the industry.

“We must acknowledge that setting up a large-scale, globally competitive fertilizer plant requires multibillion-dollar investments. Removing anomalies in gas pricing will encourage manufacturers to undertake significant investments in plant modernization and expansion while improving the efficiency to yield optimal utilization of allocated gas,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Engro Fertilizers and other major fertilizer manufacturers are investing heavily in the Gas Pressure Enhancement Facilities (PEF) project to sustain domestic urea production levels and safeguard the food security of Pakistan.

The expected share of Engro Fertilizers’ capital expenditure in this project is over $100m.

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Posted on: 2024-03-07T16:02:42+05:00