As negotiations begin on the effect of the UK leaving the EU, the fertiliser industry is showing increased solidarity through its trade association, said Howard Clark, chairman of the AIC Fertiliser Sector.
Speaking at the sector’s annual dinner at the Institute of Directors in London, Mr Clark said: “Right now the sector is rallying to the call to back AIC, its national trade body, as we prepare to enter into once in a generation negotiations on the future of the industry post Brexit.
“To enter negotiations with the credentials that we represent the industry – rather than ‘a significant part’ of the industry – strengthens our right to be heard.”
The list of issues already identified is extensive. These include: the risk of trade barriers and tariffs; the threat of losing access to the single market; and the possibility of a return to border and customs controls, said Mr Clark.
“Already we have seen a devalued pound lead to raw material costs increasing by some 15%, which is bad news for the whole food chain.”
However, there remains work to be done while the country remains part of the EU, the most important task being continuing development of a new EU Fertiliser Regulation, according to Mr Clark.
“The most pressing matter is proposals to limit the levels of cadmium in phosphate fertilisers. As ever, the EU has been draconian and proposed a phased reduction to just 20mg/kg of phosphate under the new regulation.
“To accept this proposal would mean a drastic reduction in potential sources of phosphate for the industry. Or a massive investment in a process called decadmiation which remains unproven at commercial scale of operations.”
AIC said it has committed considerable time to lobbying both in Brussels with MEPs and officials as well as with Defra and the devolved governments, contending that a level of no less than 80mg/kg is acceptable.
“In addition, we are pressing for the right – at national level – for Member States to be able to operate independently of the regulation and maintain their own national regulations,” said Mr Clark.