Farmers have been told that the development of an assurance scheme for fertiliser, which comes into force in January 2006, should not block cheaper imports.

David Heather, head of the fertiliser sector at the Agricultural Industries Confederation, said the scheme had been developed to help reassure the government that security controls are in place across the whole production and distribution chain.

But because it had been devised with the involvement of importers, manufacturers and distributors, the impact on farmers should be minimal.

The scheme was not there to act as a barrier to good quality product and any imports that met current regulations should meet the assurance requirements, said Mr Heather.

Jonathan Tipples, vice-chairman of Assured Food Standards, added that assurance schemes were highly unlikely – at least in the short to medium term – to insist that farmers bought fertiliser from an assured source.

“We might say that one day, but not straightaway because we don’t want to restrict where farmers can buy from,” he said.