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HomeFarming News‘Financially’ crippling fertiliser costs ‘burying’ farmers in debt
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘Financially’ crippling fertiliser costs ‘burying’ farmers in debt

High fertiliser prices are slamming farmers already buckling under the strain of rising costs to produce food.

That is according to Rural Independent TD, Michael Collins, who said that Irish farmers are experiencing “a nightmare situation” with input costs.

Rising fertiliser prices

Fertiliser prices have hit record levels in the last several months. Furthermore, all three groups of nutrients — potash, phosphate and nitrogen — have doubled and even tripled in price in some cases.

“Average fertiliser prices a year ago were high at a costly €300/t,” Collins said in a statement.

“Today, prices have skyrocketed with CAN fertilisers costing Irish farmers more than €600/t and Urea more than €900/t.”

“Consequently, for a typical mid-sized farmer feeding 120 tons of rations and using 30 tons of fertiliser per year, the rise in input costs will add €23,400 of additional costs.”

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He stressed that fertiliser is a “critical” element for food security, sustainability and animal welfare in Ireland.

He said that while the cost crisis is not sustainable for farmers, consumers are feeling the consequences through record food inflation.

Collins warned that farmers are “on the cusp” of losing farms due to “financially crippling” fertiliser costs. He said these hikes – “mainly due to crazy green policies” are “burying” farmers in debt.

Key drivers of fertiliser prices

Collins discussed the main drivers of increased fertiliser costs in the EU. He listed the “record” natural gas prices as the primary driver.

“This is due to the government’s agenda to decarbonise electricity generation through overzealous and half-baked green policies.”

He added that EU policy to protect the continent’s fertiliser producers by imposing import levies on fertilisers is also impacting.

State-aid framework

Last week, during deliberations at the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee meeting, he challenged Mr Fabien Santini of the EU Commission (Agriculture) on the crisis’ origins and response.

“From Mr Santini’s reply, we gleaned that each member state government has been given the latitude to provide unique farmer support through relaxations of the state-aid framework.”

Collins said this mechanism – currently only available until June 2022 – would allow for direct financial aid.

“It is, therefore, extraordinary that our government has so far failed to use this tool to assist our burdened farmers to mitigate the higher global prices for farm inputs.”

“The government can no longer evade this crucial issue simply to keep the Green Party happy. Doing so will serve to destroy Irish family farms,” he argued.

“An urgent intervention to prevent farmers from augmenting more debt or going out of business is now overdue,” he added.

Save family farms

Furthermore, he said any government subsidies must correspond to the rise in import prices to “save family farm livelihoods”.

He added that, after all, protecting farm incomes and livelihoods remains one of the Common Agricultural Policy’s (CAP) objectives.

“Vitally, we believe that special farmer subsidies are needed to stem the consequences of increased fertiliser costs, grow crops, feed animals and keep consumer food prices down.”

“Government intervention must be swiftly delivered. Our family farmers have absolutely no control over these gigantic price hikes,” concluded the deputy.

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