Speaking from the International Fertiliser Industries Association Conference in Moscow this week, IFA President Joe Healy said the EU Commission must move immediately to eliminate anti-dumping and customs duties on fertiliser imports into Europe.
Mr Healy said, “Following on from talks with a number of the world’s major manufacturers, it is clear that the imposition of EU tariffs is a major barrier to trade, which is preventing real competition and costing Irish and European farmers an extra €1bn per year at a time when farm incomes across the tillage, dairy and livestock sectors are in crisis”.
The IFA President pointed out that the annual cost of the EU import tariffs on European farmers is almost the equivalent of the entire EU basic payment to Irish farmers.
The IFA delegation, including Inputs Chairman John Coughlan, Acting General Secretary Bryan Barry and Grain and Inputs Executive Fintan Conway, held several high-level meetings with the major fertiliser manufacturers from the US, Gulf States, Ukraine and Russia in addition to EU producers.
Joe Healy said “The EU Commission cannot stand over a situation where European farmers have to accept world prices for agricultural produce while we are forced to pay uncompetitive prices for key inputs such as fertiliser. The net worth of the major EU fertiliser manufacturers has increased year-on-year for the past decade, as they have made exorbitant profits in a highly protected market at the expense of Irish and European farmers”.
Joe Healy pointed out that fertiliser is the second highest input cost on Irish farms and the third highest for European producers. The IFA-commissioned report by the highly respected International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) showed that European farmers are paying a significant premium for fertiliser over non-EU producers, which is cutting farm incomes and putting EU grain growers in particular at a significant disadvantage in international markets.
The IFPRI report demonstrated that fertiliser prices in the protected and highly concentrated European market had increased disproportionately by 123%, while prices in regions such as Brazil actually decreased by 65% over a thirty year period.
According to IFPRI, “this further suggests that additional factors, such as price fixing and cartels might be operating in highly concentrated markets such as Western Europe and calls for the need to further examine pricing behaviour and potential market power exertion in the industry”.
The IFA Inputs Chairman John Coughlan stressed that this finding alone required immediate and decisive action to remove EU import tariffs. “The IFPRI report also conservatively estimated that the removal of EU tariffs would create a minimum of 17,200 jobs in the European agri-food sector, while the earlier Copenhagen study estimated the benefits could run to an additional 100,000 jobs in Europe”.
Concluding, John Coughlan said “with farm incomes in crisis across all sectors, the EU Commission must act to reduce the unacceptably high cost of fertiliser by removing Europe’s import tariffs without delay”.