Government must appreciate importance of fertiliser in food security

By Bethan Grylls

- Last updated on GMT

Credit: Getty/fotokostic
Credit: Getty/fotokostic

Related tags fertilisers Food Food security cost of living crisis

Given the growing food security crisis, NFU Scotland has called upon the UK Government to recognise the role fertiliser has to play in the future and asks growers for their own thoughts.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) Scotland is urging the UK Government to recognise the strategic importance of fertiliser and, in light of the growing food security crisis, put in place support for domestic production.

This call follows a recent government summit on fertiliser hosted by Minister of State for Food, Farming and Fisheries Mark Spencer MP and attended by NFU Scotland’s Combinable Crops Committee chair Willie Thomson.

“Growers have had a great year with great weather and great yields, but we cannot take our foot off the pedal when it comes to fertiliser costs and availability in 2023,”​ warned Thomas. “The exceptional rise in input costs across the board is hitting growers hard but a 200% increase in fertiliser prices, driven primarily by the dreadful war in Ukraine makes planning arable production in 2023 very difficult.”

He added that the UK Government must also acknowledge fertiliser’s role in the future of food security when it reviews the Energy Bill Relief Scheme, and explained that an investigation is needed to explore why fertiliser is cheaper in parts of Europe (such as France) than UK.

“We welcome a commitment at the meeting to progress fertiliser market transparency work. As part of that work, we will look to the UK Government to assess and, where necessary, improve port and rail capacity to support fertiliser imports to all parts of Great Britain,”​ Thomas continued.

“The Scottish Government also has a key role to ensure Scottish farmers continue to make the most of costly fertilisers. It must support the development and uptake of innovations to improve nutrient use efficiency, particularly the precision application of fertiliser through capital grants and innovation support.”

This, according to Thomas, should reduce the levels of nitrogen lost to the air and water, improve crop quality and help deliver on the Scottish Government’s climate mitigation, nature restoration and high-quality food production priorities.

He gave a nod to the many Scottish farmers who he said are already playing their part through soil testing, nutrient management plans and incorporating livestock and organic manures. However, he cautioned that as Britain’s agricultural transition transpires there is a real possibility, the nation could see the prohibitive price of nitrogen fertilisers in the UK impact directly on production levels.

“The reality is that changes to our arable production may already be happening. I urge all growers in Scotland to complete NFU Scotland’s intentions survey​, so that we can assess the scale of change that unprecedented input costs and flat-lining output prices are having on Scottish arable farm business plans,”​ he concluded.

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