Defra Secretary of State Liz Truss has supported the call for tariffs on imported fertiliser to be lifted – a key UK farming union lobbying priority.
The unions have been pushing the move for some time, in a bid to remove cash-flow pressure on farming businesses. At present, UK farmers are seriously hamstrung by the tariffs – the current differential between global and European fertiliser prices has now reached €100/tonne.
Removing the tariffs could provide a €915 million annual benefit to European agriculture and a 17,000 net job gain to the EU, according to a study released by the International Food Policy Research Institute last month.
The Secretary of State’s view was supported by Ireland’s agriculture minister Simon Coveney, along with Finland.
Speaking after the meeting, Mrs Truss said: “While the industry continues to suffer from low global prices, a move to reduce fertiliser tariffs would greatly hep our farmers compete on a level playing field with competitors around the world.”
Farming unions respond to package
In a joint statement, the UK farming union presidents welcomed the measures announced by Commissioner Hogan but called for swifter short-term action to reduce pressure on farm businesses.
The presidents of NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and the Ulster Farmers’ Union met in Brussels to brief Defra Secretary of State Liz Truss ahead of the Agriculture Council meeting.
In a statement released after Mr Hogan’s announcements, the four presidents said: “Commissioner Hogan’s package of measures announced at yesterday’s Agriculture Council are a step in the right direction – we welcome increases to the limits of dairy intervention and steps to look into a new private storage aid scheme for pigmeat. We are also very pleased to see that the commission will establish a meat market observatory – a key UK farming union ask.”
However, there are four remaining short-term steps that could ease cash-flow pressure; removing tariffs on imported fertiliser, speeding up work with the EIB, providing greater market transparency and reviewing the intervention price on dairy.
The presidents added: “As we told the Secretary of State yesterday morning, we fully support the long-term work Defra is doing to future proof the industry – but we must not ignore the reality of the situation. Farmers cannot plan for a long-term future if the short-term prospects look bleak.”