By Philip Clarke

BRITISH farmers are being penalised by having to pay some of the highest input prices in Europe, a new survey has revealed.

Ethofusimate, which is used as a herbicide ingredient throughout the EU, costs more than twice as much in the UK as it does in Germany. And fluroxypyr, another weedkiller, is almost three times more expensive than it is in Denmark, according to the study by the European Council of Young Farmers (Ceja).

UK farmers often pay more for their machinery, too. For example, a John Deere 170hp combine costs 43% more than in Spain, a Kverneland potato harvester was 20% more than in Germany, while a Same 100hp tractor was 25% more expensive in the UK than Italy.

But fertiliser prices are lower in the UK. Ammonium nitrate was found to be 5% cheaper than in France, which in turn was 15% more expensive than Spain. The Irish, meanwhile, paid 37% more for their prilled urea than in the UK, though this market was particularly volatile.

In total, 54 different farm inputs were analysed by Ceja staff during 1998. To eliminate foreign exchange differences, all national currencies were converted into Ecus at the prevailing rate. Information was obtained from traders, retailers, manufacturers and national organisations.

“The largest differences in prices occur in the plant protection and driven machinery sectors,” says Ceja president John Lee, who was due to present the report to UK farm minister, Nick Brown on Thursday (yesterday). “In these sectors it is actually illegal under the Treaty of Rome to buy products in one country and move them into another.

A Dane may be able to go to Germany to buy a car and drive it home, but not so a tractor.”

The problem was exacerbated by the fact farm outputs are sold at more or less the same rate throughout the EU, placing farmers in the high priced input countries at a significant competitive disadvantage.

National tax arrangements, local market conditions and different transport costs also explain some of the discrepancies, says CEJA.

In particular, countries in the margins of Europe, like Ireland and the UK, tend to pay more due to their isolation. For example, Ireland is by far the most expensive EU state for Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN), paying 28% more than in Holland. There was also a tendency for fertiliser to be delivered bagged in Ireland, whereas continental producers took it in bulk. In the machinery sector, import taxes accounted for much of the discrepancy between countries, though manufacturers were unable to give details.

  • UK farmers pay 40% more for harvesters, FWi, today (04 December, 1998)