As negotiations begin on the effect of the UK leaving the European Union, the fertiliser industry is showing increased solidarity through its trade association, says Howard Clark, Chairman of the AIC Fertiliser Sector.
Speaking at the sector’s annual dinner at the Institute of Directors in London, Mr Clark spoke of the new members who had joined the Agricultural Industries Confederation in the past year and those who were about to join.
“For the commitment and backing of Members new and old, I thank you wholeheartedly,” said Mr Clark. “Right now the sector is rallying to the call to back AIC, its national trade body, as we prepare to enter into once in a generation negotiations on the future of the industry post Brexit. To enter negotiations with the credentials that we represent the industry – rather than ‘a significant part’ of the industry – strengthens our right to be heard.”
The list of issues already identified is extensive. These include: the risk of trade barriers and tariffs; the threat of losing access to the single market; and the possibility of a return to border and customs controls.
“Already we have seen a devalued pound lead to raw material costs increasing by some 15%, which is bad news for the whole food chain,” said Mr Clark.
However, while Brexit negotiations will bring a whole new workstream to AIC’s activities; there remains work to be done while the country remains part of the EU. The most important task being the continuing development of a new EU Fertilser Regulation. Mr Clark described this process as a ‘tortuous journey through the legislative process’.
“The most pressing matter is proposals to limit the levels of cadmium in phosphate fertilisers. As ever, the EU has been draconian and proposed a phased reduction to just 20mg/kg of phosphate under the new regulation.
“To accept this proposal would mean a drastic reduction in potential sources of phosphate for the industry. Or a massive investment in a process called ‘decadmiation’ which remains unproven at commercial scale of operations,” said Mr Clark.
This is why AIC has committed considerable time to lobbying both in Brussels with MEPs and officials as well as with Defra and the devolved governments. The Confederation contends that an acceptable level of no less than 80mg/kg is acceptable.
“In addition, we are pressing for the right – at national level – for Member States to be able to operate independently of the Regulation and maintain their own national regulations.”