The NFU is urging the government and industry to build more transparency into the fertiliser market, as part of a joined-up approach to make the nation’s food security more resilient.

As arable event Cereals kicks off today (8 June 2022), NFU deputy president Tom Bradshaw is highlighting the complete lack of transparency in the fertiliser market, leaving growers with a lack of information that does not inspire confidence to purchase inputs. This risks serious impacts for the 2023 growing season, he says.

According to AHDB, fertiliser prices have increased by 180% year-on-year. In April 2021, the price was £281/t. In April 2022, the price was £785/t.

To achieve greater transparency, the NFU is calling on suppliers to publish fertiliser prices immediately to help farm businesses plan for next year’s crop.

It’s also asking government and industry to come forward with a range of options that would enable the currently closed CF Fertiliser plant in the UK to reopen and start producing fertiliser.

A new era

Tom says that it feels very strange that fertiliser isn’t being produced when gas prices appear to be at a seasonal low.

“Over the past year, the fertiliser market has entered into a new era. Costs and supply face unprecedented risks and we need a visible, transparent market to allow producers, distributors and farmers alike to manage these threats in a commercially viable way.

“Nitrogen fertiliser supplies are reeling from geopolitical events that have upended the energy markets it is reliant on. As a result, there’s likely going to be a lack of availability next year and we are urging suppliers to proactively come forward and publish fertiliser prices to give farm businesses maximum time to plan in 2023.

“It’s a real possibility that nitrogen fertiliser is the limiting factor globally over the next 18 months which, alongside the crisis in the Ukraine, will restrict global crop production and deepen the humanitarian disaster.

“As the government finalises its national food strategy, it’s absolutely critical that ministers recognise the importance of fertilisers and other inputs to a farm business and make those markets fit-for-purpose.”

‘Huge impact’

NFU crops board chair Matt Culley adds: “Months of high prices, with nitrogen fertiliser costing three times as much as it did this time last year, are having a huge impact on arable growers across the country.

“When businesses are facing input costs that are already at least 50% higher than last year, the financial risks associated with cropping decisions are also increased, and harder to manage.

“Risks are also increased if we don’t get favourable weather conditions for next year’s crops and growers are having to make tough decisions now on what to plant this autumn, whether to downsize production, or reduce the amount of fertiliser used which could impact productivity.

“All growers want their business to be as resilient as possible, especially when we work in such a volatile marketplace. Transparency is a key element to that but more progressive, independent advice to help growers drive nutrient use efficiency and make better use of manures and cover crops will help in this new world of fertiliser prices.”