Ramdev firm plans potash unit in UP, seeks input support from sugar mills

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At a time when the Russia-Ukraine crisis is threatening to impact the availability of imported fertilizers in the country, Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Organic Research Institute (PORI) has reached out to the sugar mills in Uttar Pradesh with a proposal to produce potash indigenously from incineration ash discharged by their distilleries as an alternative to muriate of potash (MoP).

PORI already manufactures organic potash, phosphate-rich organic manure, various organic fertilizers and pesticides. It has written to the Uttar Pradesh Sugar Mills Association (UPSMA) seeking a supply of 1 lakh metric tonnes of incineration ash as raw material for manufacturing organic potash, bio-fertilizers and other associated agricultural inputs. Indigenously produced potash would not only help the farmers get organic-rich manure at a low cost but also increase their profits, PORI has pointed out.

According to sources in the sugar industry, senior officials of the Haridwar-based institute is in talks with UPSMA for the supply of incineration ash for manufacturing muriate of potash (MoP).

“The PORI management has written a letter in this regard to UPSMA and we will take a decision on the issue soon,” said a sugar miller, requesting anonymity. However, representatives of PORI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.As a pollution control measure, sugar mills must have incineration boilers, which burn the slop discharged as effluent by the mills’ captive distilleries in an environment-friendly manner. The ash thus produced contains 22-28% potash, which can be converted into MoP with some pruning.

“Because of its high potash content, the ash acts as a raw material for MoP, which contains 60% potash,” the official said, adding that until now the sugar mills sold the ash to local MSMEs in the fertiliser sector but with the demand now increasing, bigger players have started taking an interest.

Usually, the ash disposed of by the sugar mills is sold by the mills individually on a mutually agreed price mechanism that depended on the quality of the ash. But with the demand rising in the market, the role of the association has come into prominence.

Potash derived from molasses is a fertilizer already registered in Fertilizer Control Order in Schedule 1. However, the product is not very popular.

India imports its entire annual requirement of 5 million metric tonnes of MoP, of which nearly 40% is from Russia and Belarus. With supply disruptions, the prices of MoP have doubled to around $500-600 per MT as against imports contracted around $280 per MT till November 2021.

According to a research paper on potash ash published by the All India Distillers’ Association, there are 285 distilleries in India, producing 27000 lakh litres of alcohol annually. The production of 1 litre of alcohol results in 0.356 kg of potash ash. Accordingly, 27,000 lakh litres of alcohol will result in the production of 9.4 lakh MT potash ash. Considering a minimum of 20% potash in ash, the total potash nutrient supply potential works out to be 1.89 lakh MT, which can be used directly for agricultural purposes.