Spain leads calls for EU measures to ensure availability of fertilisers for farmers

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, has defended the need for the European Commission to adopt specific, urgent and ambitious measures to ensure the supply of fertilisers to farmers, since these are essential products to guarantee the crop yields and, with it, a sufficient supply of food for the population.

Luis Planas has presented to the Council of Ministers of Agriculture of the European Union (EU) a communication, supported by 15 Member States, which proposes a series of actions in the short, medium and long term to ensure the availability of fertilisers at affordable prices. This proposal complements the communication made by the Commission itself, which for the Spanish minister constitutes a very good analysis of the situation but is not very ambitious and lacks a sufficient level of specification.

The minister explained that it is necessary to give farmers certainty with concrete measures at a time when they are already making decisions about planting, to prevent them from discarding or significantly reducing the fertilization of crops.

Fertilisers, recalled Planas, act as crop nutrients and their use is essential to guarantee production yields and that they reach a sufficient level. But right now there is a serious problem of accessibility to them, since they have suffered a significant increase in cost -149% between September 2021 and September 2022 in the European Union- as a consequence of the high costs of energy, since gas is an indispensable basic material for its manufacture. This increase in costs has had among its consequences the closure of half of the European ammonia manufacturing plants.

For this reason, the minister has explained that an immediate action plan is necessary with a comprehensive strategy to ensure the availability of fertilisers, and has advocated that the Commission seek support mechanisms beyond authorising an increase in aid.

In addition to facilitating access to fertilisers immediately, Spain is committed to the adoption of measures also in the medium and long term, aimed at improving Europe’s autonomy in the production and supply of fertilisers and correcting the dependence maintained up to now on gas and products made in Russia. Likewise, that initiatives be adopted to look for alternative sources in the circular economy, such as the recovery of nutrients from manure and slurry.

It is also necessary to advance in the fertilization carried out by farmers with a more efficient and sustainable use of the products, for which advice is essential. Among these measures in the medium and long term, the minister has cited the promotion of new technologies and precision agriculture so that the doses applied are adjusted to the real needs of the crops, and encourage those that are nitrogen fixers. All these measures will be included in the fertiliser roadmap that the ministry will draw up with the collaboration of organisations and entities in the sector.

Luis Planas has also held a bilateral meeting in Brussels with the new Swedish Minister for Rural Affairs, Peter Kullgren, who has just completed a month in office, and a trilateral meeting with the ministerial heads of Agriculture of Hungary, István Nagy, and from Belgium, David Clarinval.