The joint Oireachtas committee on agriculture has heard that there is no “real concern” at EU level that fertiliser will be unavailable to farmers in the marketplace.
However, Senator Tim Lombard has questioned the preparations taken by the European Commission to ensure that high prices will not lead to a similar fodder scenario as witnessed in 2018, when fodder was imported from France.
According to Lombard, the average dairy farm is facing a €25,000 increase in costs, based on the figures he was quoted by merchants this week.
The senator went on to state that he expected fertiliser usage to fall by approximately 20% in Ireland, as farmers would be unable to purchase the same volumes as previous years, given the recent increases in prices.
The knock-on effects of this drop in the amount of fertiliser applied could become a “real issue” regarding the fodder supplies available for the national herd, he added.
Access to credit
Lombard stated that ensuring access to credit for farmers when purchasing fertiliser should become a priority over the next six weeks, as two-thirds of the fertiliser in the country is spread before June.
Should no short-term solution be found to the issues of anti-dumping duties, import tariffs and access to finance, the country may be looking a fodder crisis of the sort witnessed in 2018.
The expected implications for EU food security should farmers’ fertiliser applications drop over the next year was also raised by Lombard in his address to Fabien Santini, the European Commission’s official who answered questions on the EU fertiliser situation on Wednesday.
“Most” of the plants that were reported as having temporarily ceased production around September of last year have resumed operations, the committee was told by Santini.
However, despite the expected availability of supplies, the committee heard that the European Commission is anticipating between a 10% and 15% drop in fertiliser usage across the EU this year, with bigger drops to be expected in some instances.
The price of fertiliser, rather than its availability, was the main issue that the sector should focus on, the official explained.