The EU fertilizer rescue plan hasn’t satisfied farmers

To ensure that European farmers can receive the fertilizers required to grow food for a world on the verge of a full-blown famine crisis, the EU has developed a rescue plan.

Except for the Commission, it appears that nobody believes the plan would be successful, POLITICO reported in its analysis.

The EU’s main lobbying group for farmers and agri-cooperatives, Copa & Cogeca, stated in a statement that “this new communication simply [fails] to provide tangible answers to the shortcomings encountered by European farmers.”

EU plan to ensure that European farmers can receive the fertilizers

Svein Tore Holsether, CEO of Yara International, the largest fertilizer producer in the world, commented on the communication, saying, “I haven’t seen anything in this communication that gives us predictability.” He was referring to the extremely volatile prices of natural gas needed to produce fertilizers.

Due to a shortage of vital inputs like natural gas, which is both a crucial component and a source of energy for the manufacturing of phosphates and potash, as well as nitrogen-based fertilizers, the EU is heavily dependent on the importation of fertilizers.

Chemical fertilizers are still now accessible in the EU, but their costs have soared since September of last year, due in part to the crippled supply following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Before the war, Belarus and Russia supplied over 60% of the fertilizer requirements of the EU.

Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski came up with a new  Commission strategy, after initially presenting it in early October. An updated version discusses public assistance programs and financing sources that are already in place, such as the Common Agricultural Policy, that national governments can employ to assist farmers in getting access to and buying fertilizers shortly.

Farmers are not happy with the plan crafted by European Commission

However, the specific assignments of this document don’t persuade farmers.

According to Cogeca President Ramon Armengol, “The Commission passes the responsibility… to the member states through state subsidies and CAP strategic plans.” Depending on how member nations respond, this could lead to major imbalances. Fertilizers are a crucial component of agriculture, therefore the lack of a definitive response is extremely troubling.

In their national emergency plans, member states “may prioritize the continuous and uninterrupted access to natural gas” for fertilizer producers “in the event of gas restrictions,” according to the European Commission.

The suggested measures “aren’t clear enough,” according to Yara’s Holsether. “We are dissatisfied that the reference to the availability of gas for fertilizer production in the event of rationing is not stronger,” the company official stated.

Phosphate and potash were imported from Russia and Belarus before the war

Farmers in Europe have been struggling with several issues in addition to the shortage of nitrogen-based fertilizers. Around 65 percent of the fertilizers used in the EU come from these two countries, but the EU also imports a considerable portion of mined fertilizers like phosphate and potash, which, before the Russia’s war against Ukraine, were mostly produced in Belarus and Russia.

Copa & Cogeca and several European Parliament members have urged the EU to secure supply from other nations and eliminate anti-dumping taxes on fertilizer imports from nations like Trinidad and Tobago and the United States. But the final text finally takes a stance in favor of the issues brought forth by European firms.

In the end, the EU wants farmers to begin fertilizer application more effectively to lower synthetic fertilizer consumption by 20% by 2030.

The European Environmental Bureau’s Célia Nyssens-James described the Brussels plan as “a great gift to the fertilizers business” and other environmental NGOs shared her displeasure. The subsidies for farmers, she continued, are a “misguided fast fix that will not tackle the core problem of our dependence on fossil fuels and fertilizer imports; nor will any of the environmental problems associated to the overuse of fertilizers in Europe.”

UN warned that many countries will be on the verge of starvation

Asian and African countries might see an increase in the number of people on the verge of starvation next year, the United Nations recently warned, if the fertilizer problem is not swiftly resolved.

The plan put forth by the European Commission has a whole section on how the EU can aid in addressing the world’s problems but does not provide innovative solutions beyond continued cooperation with relevant stakeholders in this industry.

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