Ulster Farmers’ Union Deputy President Barclay Bell has said that while the rising cost of fertiliser continues to have a damaging impact on farm incomes, there are mounting concerns as to reasons behind the increases, in particular the lack of competition within the fertiliser market.
The comments were made following Mr Bell’s attendance at the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) International Fertiliser conference in Killenard, Co Laois.
Mr Bell said: “A worrying trend has emerged, where there have been global decreases in energy costs but these have not filtered down into the fertiliser market.
“As many will be aware, one of the main input costs for fertiliser producers is energy and one would expect that when energy costs are down, as they have been for oil and natural gas for some time now, this would be reflected in fertiliser prices.
“However, this has not been the case and the UFU has serious concerns that fertiliser companies are taking advantage of their customers and profiteering off the back of low energy prices.”
The UFU has joined the IFA in its calls for the EU Commission to investigate fertiliser prices as a matter of urgency.
Mr Bell said: “More needs to be done to get to the bottom of why fertiliser prices are not mirroring energy trends. Something clearly is amiss and fertiliser companies need to be held to account if they are acting unscrupulously.
“The Union is supporting the IFA’s calls for changes to EU regulations that would help to address market concentration and the unbalanced power held by a small number of multinational input suppliers.
“Already EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has committed to raising this issue with the EU Commissioner for Competition, which is welcome news and it is crucially important that any activities by manufacturers that are potentially in breach of competition laws are investigated fully by DG Competition.”