14 February 1997

Fertiliser plant faces inquiry after underweight bags sale

By Tony McDougal

WEIGHTS and measures officers are to investigate a plant bagging imported ammonium nitrate after checks on a Berks farm revealed numerous bags to be underweight.

Tenant farmer Philip Walters, who farms 162ha (400 acres) of arable land and grazes 400 cows, called in Berks trading standards department after finding a weight discrepancy in a 50t consignment of the fertiliser.

"I decided to have them weighed on the weighbridge and they came to 49.640t. So I rang the sales agent and he told me that as the company had paid for 50t of fertiliser, I would have to do the same.

"Their attitude really annoyed me and so I called in Berkshire trading standards officers. They offered to weigh 20 500kg bags individually, and amazingly all were between 2-5kg underweight even in the bag."

Mr Walters, of Bower Farm, Aldworth, near Reading, Berks, uses 100t of nitrogen a year, and said the trading standards officer had weighed bags from two companies involving imported and home produced nitrogen.

"I just feel people should be aware that this can happen from time to time," he told FW.

A spokesman for Berks trading standards department said weights and measures officers would check the next consignment of fertiliser arriving at Mr Walterss farm in early summer. Further checks by neighbouring Buckinghamshire officers on the bagging plant are to take place in the near future.

David Heather, Fertiliser Manufacturers Association spokesman, said there were very few reported cases of underweight fertiliser bags."This does sound odd. Manufacturers have to keep a print-out record of weigh scale weighing and that is why trading standards officers can inspect to check if weights are correct."

Philip Walters…amazed to discover 20 500kg fertiliser bags between 2-5kg underweight.