Brexit poses risks to global fertiliser industry

While the threats posed by Britain's exit from the EU has resulted in the various members of the country's fertiliser industry pulling together as never before, proposals for new product regulations put forward by Brussels are being fiercely countered.

Fertiliser use and availability could be hit by Brexit. Picture: Robert Perry

Howard Clark, chairman of the fertiliser sector of the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), warned this week that Brexit posed a number of risks to the global nature of the fertiliser industry.

He said these included 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.

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“Already we have seen a devalued pound lead to raw material costs increasing by some 15 per cent, which is bad news for the whole food chain,” said Clark.

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However, he stressed that one of the biggest threats to the sector lay in the development of a new EU Fertilser Regulation which he said was currently undergoing a “tortuous journey through the legislative process”.

Clark said that the single biggest danger was posed by plans 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,” said Clark.

He said that such a move would mean a drastic reduction in potential sources of phosphate for the industry - or the requirement for a massive investment in a process called “decadmiation” which, according to Clark, remained unproven at commercial scale of operations.

He said this was why the AIC had committed considerable time to lobbying both in Brussels with MEPs and officials as well as with Defra and the devolved governments. He said that the confederation believed that an acceptable level of no less than 80mg/kg was an acceptable compromise.

“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 Clark.