The NFU is urging the government and fertiliser industry to build more transparency into the market as part of a joined-up approach to increase food security.
Coinciding with the start of the Cereals Event, deputy president Tom Bradshaw highlighted the lack of transparency in the fertiliser market, leaving growers with a lack of information which does not inspire confidence to purchase inputs. He added that this could have severe impacts for the 2023 growing season.
To achieve greater transparency, the NFU is calling on suppliers to publish prices to help farm businesses plan for next year. It is also asking the government and industry to come forward with various options to enable the closed CF Fertiliser plant in the UK to reopen. Mr Bradshaw said that it was very strange for fertiliser to not be produced when gas prices were at a seasonal low.
He added: “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 is 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 is a real possibility that nitrogen fertiliser is the limiting factor globally over the next 18 months which, alongside the crisis in 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.”
NFU crops board chair Matt Culley said: “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.”