5 September 2000
Farmers challenge fertiliser tariffs

by Alistair Driver

THE National Farmers Union is challenging a European Commission decision to impose import tariffs on fertiliser supplies from Eastern Europe.

The union claims the tariffs are damaging British farmers. It will ask Brussels to suspend the duty on ammonium nitrate supplies from Poland and the Ukraine.

Marcus Themans, chairman of the NFU technical services committee, will address the unions concerns at a special meeting in Brussels on 12 September.

Fertiliser prices have risen from 80/tonne to 125/tonne over the last year. The NFU forecasts higher prices which will hit arable and livestock farmers.

The tariffs were introduced to protect European fertiliser manufacturers from cheap imports. In theory, they add 14-21 a tonne to the price of fertiliser.

But additional duties imposed earlier this summer on Polish and Ukrainian nitrogen range from Euro23-33 a tonne. They too aim to restrict imports.

NFU president Ben Gill said the tariff created unfair trading conditions for farmers. The union wants this form of protectionism removed, he added.

Mr Gill said the Department of Trade and Industry should vote against any extension of the tariff when it is reviewed in Brussels, probably in late-November.

The introduction of the tariff in July effectively closed off a key source of fertiliser to British farmers – one of the largest users of the product in Europe.

Tim Bennett, NFU deputy president, said: We are being asked to compete in world markets, while being denied access to key inputs at reasonable costs.