George Eustice delays restrictions on harmful urea fertiliser in bid to cut costs for farmers and shoppers

The Government is to delay introducing restrictions on the use of harmful urea fertiliser in a bid to minimise costs for farmers and stop food prices spiralling further.

The move has been announced by Environment Secretary George Eustice after record global fertiliser prices led to concerns that farmers would have to opt to grow fewer crops and shoppers will see even higher prices in supermarkets amidst a growing cost-of-living crisis.

The Government had been consulting on a potential ban of urea fertiliser, with Mr Eustice noting in November 2020 that ammonia emissions from its use was causing harm to both human health and the growth of plant species.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Ammonia can react with other pollutants – nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide – to form particulate matter (PM2.5) which is harmful to cardiovascular and respiratory health. Around 87 per cent of ammonia emissions come from agriculture, with eight per cent directly from the use of solid urea fertilisers.

Environment Secretary George Eustice says the country needs to reduce its dependence on manufacturing processes dependent on gas.

But Mr Eustice’s department has today confirmed that a complete ban will not be imposed and new restrictions requiring the use of ammonia inhibitors will be delayed “by at least a year”. The measures are now currently planned to come into place from April 2023.

A Defra spokesperson said: “The delay has been made to help farmers manage their costs and give them more time to adapt in the light of a global rise in gas prices leading to pressures on the supply of ammonium nitrate fertilisers.”

The decision comes after Neil Parish, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and a Tory MP, wrote to Mr Eustice yesterday warning that record increases in fertiliser prices were set to add to higher food prices for British shoppers.

It follows analysis from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board showing fertiliser price increases of between 70 and 140 per cent over the past year, as well as reports showing prices surging towards £1,000/tonne, up from around £650 in February. The process for manufactured fertiliser is dependent on gas.

Mr Parish said: “In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, British consumers can ill afford further price rises resulting from producers buying less fertiliser for their cereal crops.”

In the longer-term, the Government wants the UK to pioneer new technologies to manufacture more organic-based fertiliser products, and to rediscover older, more established techniques such as using nitrogen-fixing legumes and clovers as an alternative to fertiliser.

Mr Eustice said: “The significant rise in the cost of fertiliser is a reminder that we need to reduce our dependence on manufacturing processes dependent on gas. Many of the challenges we face in agriculture will require a fusion of new technology with conventional principles of good farm husbandry. The measures we have announced today are not the whole solution but will help farmers manage their nitrogen needs in the year ahead.”

An industry roundtable discussion on the impact of fertiliser prices chaired by Farming Minister Victoria Prentis will take place this week.

Mark Tufnell, President of the Country Land and Business Association said: “Whilst we welcome today’s announcements, it is important to recognise the sheer scale of the challenges ahead in the UK’s food production.

“The exceptionally high price of fertiliser can be mitigated only to a degree by high commodity prices. Some farmers may choose not to spread fertiliser at all this year. But if prices continued to stay at this all-time-high then government will need to urgently consider ways of increasing and diversifying domestic fertiliser production. We hope this will be a central focus of the round table Defra has rightly called.

“We welcome the news that Defra has accepted the industry’s advice to allow the continued use of urea within an accreditation scheme, audited by Red Tractor. This gives farmers a greater degree of choice when purchasing fertiliser.”

Read More

Read More
Moving Defra to Yorkshire to be nearer farming communities 'makes perfect sense'...

Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you'll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click here to subscribe.