Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Matt Carthy has called on both the Irish government and European Commission to take action as farmers "are crying out for something to be done" to mitigate extreme fertiliser costs.
“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," Carthy said to the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture.
Carthy argued that limited supplies of fertiliser are having a devastating impact on the grass-based model of farming for which Ireland is renowned.
“Urea fertiliser has increased in cost by 160% in the last 12-months, while CAN prices have increased by a staggering 228%," he said.
Carthy said that the Irish government has done nothing and the European Commission has done nothing, this, he added is not good enough.
Adding to the problem
“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/ton.
“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," he said.
In comparison to the United States, Carthy said that farmers in Ireland are paying 16% more than their US counterparts and argued that this shouldn't be labelled a "global problem".
Carthy said: “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."
Carthy added that there were positive indications regarding the potential for green ammonia on the horizon.
"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," he said.
He concluded by emphasising that "urgent action" by both the Irish government and the EU commission is needed now.