The NFU has slammed proposed changes to EU rules which will bump up the price of phosphate fertiliser and push the UK into a dangerous trade alliance with Russia.
In a controversial bid to protect the environment and public health, MEPs on the European Environment Committee voted this week for ‘radical’ new cadmium limits in phosphate fertilisers to come into force even faster than planned.
The Commission originally proposed reducing the limits from 60mg/kg to 40mg/kg after three years and 20mg/kg after 12 years. But MEPs voted to introduce the 20mg/kg limit after just nine years.
NFU combinable crops board chairman Mike Hambly said: “The outcome is very disappointing. It is really another example of the EU not taking due notice of scientific evidence and understanding levels of risk and hazard.”
At the moment, 70 per cent of EU phosphate imports are from north and west Africa, where cadmium levels are much higher than 20mg/kg.
“If those countries have to take the cadmium out, the estimated cost is somewhere in the region of 10-15 per cent”, Mr Hambly added.
“To put this into figures farmers understand, it would add £40 a tonne to the last load of Triple Superphosphate I bought. That is a disadvantage I am placed at on the world market.
“Even more worryingly, if we are unable to source competitively from north and west Africa, the next known source of phosphate is Russia. You really do have to question just how sensible this strategy is.”
It is thought the price of Russian phosphate could go up as the Commission has concluded European demand would outstrip supply. Difficult EU-Russian diplomatic relations add another dimension to the problem.
Fertilizers Europe, the body representing fertiliser manufacturers, has also weighed in on the MEPs’ decision, blaming ‘partisan politics’ for the ‘extreme position’.
A statement from the group read: “This position, which is totally unacceptable, was developed without proper information on the feasibility. It puts at stake the capacity of Europe to keep a competitive mineral fertiliser sector and provide farmers with affordable fertilisers.”
The European Parliament will vote on the plans in September this year.