Growing concerns over fertiliser prices

NIGTA's Robin Irvine
NIGTA's Robin Irvine

Responding to mounting farmer concern regarding the current cost of fertiliser, the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association (NIGTA) has told Farming Life that prices have shown a significant reduction on last spring.

“However, we understand producer frustration at a time when prices of most commodities have collapsed,” said NIGTA chief executive Robin Irvine.

“We are missing the vital element of competition - the worlds’ fertiliser manufacturing capacity is in the hands of very few players and with no native production in Ireland we are at the mercy of the global marketplace.

“We are further disadvantaged by the restrictions on the use of Ammonium Nitrate in Ireland – this is one of the most cost effective sources of fertiliser nitrogen and is widely used throughout the world.

“Fertiliser is still one of the best investments a farmer can make and the key is to be sure to get the best possible response to what is applied.

“Soil needs to be tested and a fertiliser program devised to apply only those nutrients which are required and which makes optimum use of the manures produced on the farm.

“For livestock farmers struggling with low product prices, it has never been more important to get the best possible output from grass.”

The Ulster Farmers’ Union says it shares its members concerns about fertiliser prices. It points out that these are a major cost burden for farm businesses, and that prices seem to bear no relation to either the cost of producing fertiliser or prices for agricultural commodities.

UFU deputy president, Barclay Bell, said he was concerned that for some time there had been a ‘complete disconnect’ between fertiliser prices and the cost of production.

“For years we were told prices were linked to energy costs. Then when those fell we were told the market was driven by supply and demand. Now when agricultural prices are in a global slump there seems to be no logic behind the prices being charged for fertilisers.”

He added that the farm commissioner, Phil Hogan, had suggested some time ago that there was a case for the EU to consider an investigation into fertiliser prices, given the small number of companies that control a global business.

“Since he raised that with his fellow commissioner responsible for competition we have heard no more. At the start of another season with what looks like higher than expected prices it is important that we all work together to meaningfully address this persistent problem.”

Trade sources have told Farming Life that Nitrogen prices are back by around £30/t this year. The price reduction, where compounds are concerned, may well be slightly higher.