Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Matt Carthy TD has called on both the Irish government and European Commission to take action to mitigate extreme fertiliser costs.
He was speaking during a hearing on Wednesday evening with Mr Fabien Santini of the Commission Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development at the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture.
Teachta Carthy said:
“Family farmers operate on extremely tight margins.
“Increases in input prices can put huge pressure on farm incomes, but the sharp hike in fertiliser has been beyond anything that can be managed at an on-farm level.
“Urea fertiliser has increased in cost by 160% in the last 12-months, while CAN prices have increased by a staggering 228%.
“Limited supplies are having a devastating impact on the grass-based model of farming for which Ireland is renowned.
“Farmers are crying out for something to be done.
“But the Irish government has done nothing. The European Commission has done nothing.
“That is not good enough.
“In fact, the EU is adding to the problem by imposing levies on imports of fertiliser from outside the EU and adding further anti-dumping duties of up to €43 per tonne.
“This is providing the European fertiliser industry with a protection that Irish food producers do not have. That industry is making massive profits.
“Gas prices have been cited as the cause of hikes, but fertiliser price increases have been greater than gas rises, and since gas prices have reduced fertiliser costs have not followed suit.
“We are told that this is a global problem, but farmers are paying 16% more than their counterparts in the United States.
“There are concrete actions that can be taken to mitigate the consequences.
“The first relates to addressing those import levies and anti-dumping tariffs. While European fertiliser companies rake in profits of up to 40% and there is a supply shortage, there can be no justification for these measures.
“Equally, if required, direct state aid and intervention must be considered, as was highlighted as an option by Mr Santini.
“Because while the Agriculture Committee may come at this primarily from a farm input cost – the alternative suggestion posited by Mr Santini that costs simply be borne by consumers is simply not tenable.
“We did also hear of positive indications regarding the potential for green ammonia. Reductions in the use of artificial fertilisers can and should be delivered but they way to do this is through working in partnership with farmers rather than forcing them out of business with extreme input cost shocks.
“Urgent action by both the Irish government and the EU commission is needed now.”