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IFA Inputs Project Team Leader John Coughlan has accused Fertilizer Europe (FE) of seriously undermining the competitiveness of EU agriculture and destroying farmers’ incomes.  He called on Trade Defence Instruments (TDI) members to vote against the Commission’s proposal to impose antidumping (AD) measures on UAN next Tuesday.

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IFA Grain Committee Chairman, Mark Browne has said the decision by the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed not to grant a derogation for the use of the plant protection product ‘Redigo Deter’ is yet another severe blow for Irish tillage farmers.

IFA had written to the Minister requesting a derogation for the product, due to its role in the control of Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV). A Teagasc report concluded that BYDV has previously caused yield losses of up to 3.7t/ha in winter barley and 1.2t/ha in winter wheat in Ireland. In monetary terms, this would reduce margins by €555/ha and €192/ha respectively in both barley and wheat.

The Chairman said there was already precedence for granting a derogation for the product within the EU – Belgium, Denmark and Poland were granted derogations for use of Redigo Deter in 2019.

“The Irish tillage sector has lost a number of key active ingredients including the fungicide chlorothalonil. The failure to grant a derogation for Redigo Deter will further jeopardise the viability of Irish cereal crop production, which is already down over 50,000ha since 2012,” Browne said.

The failure of the Minister to support the sector on this issue further erodes the ability of Irish farmers to compete against feed imports from other EU and, particularly, third countries who produce grains under lower environmental standards, according to Browne.

According to CSO figures, Ireland imported almost 500,000 tonnes of mostly GM corn from Brazil alone in the past two years. This grain is produced under a regime which allows the use of pesticides banned in Ireland along with widespread deforestation etc.

The Grain Chairman concluded by saying, “Different standards at Irish and EU levels for native and imported grains cannot continue to be tolerated. It is hypocritical of the Irish government to increase the regulatory burden on local cereal producers, forcing them out of production, while allowing increased access to non-EU feedstuffs produced to a lower standard”.

IFA President Joe Healy has welcomed the intervention by EU Commissioner Phil Hogan in the escalating fertiliser debacle that has seen the recent imposition of temporary anti-dumping duties on certain non-EU UAN fertiliser imports by DG Trade.

Mr Healy said, “Commissioner Hogan’s request of Competition Commissioner Vestager to take swift action to ensure the proper functioning of the EU’s internal fertiliser market, in light of questionable business practices with respect to competition rules, represents a key turning point in this case”.

“Commissioner Hogan’s assessment of the malfunctioning of the EU’s fertiliser market mirrors many of the conclusions raised in the IFA commissioned study into the sector, carried out by the Washington based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Indeed, he rightly points to the need for price transparency and the operation of fair pricing mechanisms to create a properly functioning market.”

“The IFPRI report, published in 2016, found that EU farmers are paying among the highest prices in the world for mineral fertilisers. Anti-dumping duties and customs tariffs imposed by the EU Commission on certain non-EU fertiliser imports were costing farmers €1 billion per annum. It established that the increased concentration of EU industry since 1994 enabled fertiliser producers to significantly increase profit margins. Indeed, DG Trade, in its recent interim expiry review of ammonium nitrate anti-dumping duties concurred with the IFPRI findings regarding increased concentration of the industry.”

“More alarmingly the IFPRI report identified that EU fertiliser prices not in line with the predicted model outcome. It stated that “Based on the observed data, prices in Western European countries actually increased by 123%, while prices in Brazil decreased by 65% . . . . .  further suggests that additional factors, such as price fixing and cartels, might be operating in highly concentrated markets such as Western Europe”.

“In light of these findings it is all the more worrying that DG Trade saw fit to extend temporary anti-dumping (AD) duties recently to certain UAN fertiliser imports. This is despite the fact that IFA, COPA and other EU farming groups highlighted that the additional duties will cost farmers an estimated €2.7bn over the term, thus disproportionately affecting farm incomes which are already at an all-time low across many sectors.”

Mr Healy said, “Commissioners Malmström and Vestager must pay heed to Hogan’s request as it is in the Union’s interest to ensure that we maintain the competitiveness of the EU’s farming sector and support family

IFA Environment Chairman Thomas Cooney has described the voluntary review being undertaken by the Government as an important opportunity to build on the sustainable development of the agri-food sector.

Thomas Cooney said, “Teagasc’s recently published sustainability report highlights the environmentally efficient development of the sector, with better fertiliser and grassland management leading to reduced greenhouse gas emissions per kilo of product across all enterprises. While water quality challenges remain, the improvement in farm management practices is helping to keep Ireland’s overall water quality in the top tier in Europe.

This interim review of the Nitrates Derogation must ensure that farmers who farm in derogation are supported to deliver Government’s ambitions of Food Wise 2025. It must also ensure that farmers are not saddled with excessive regulations and compliance requirements.

Concluding Thomas Cooney said, “Farmers have and continue to invest in the environmental improvement of their farms, whether that’s increased storage, management of run-off or farmyard management. This investment has not delivered a return from the marketplace and this issue should be addressed as part of this derogation review.”

Trade and farmer purchases of new season fertiliser stock pre-Xmas particularly were significantly back on the previous year as nitrogen prices had ratcheted up pretty steeply from mid-August 2018 onwards.

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