The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) grain committee has purchased a consignment of fertiliser from Northern Ireland to highlight the price differential in place on this island.

It says the imported nitrogen was easily purchased at a significant discount on the lowest available prices for similar product anywhere in the Republic of Ireland.

The lorry load of fertiliser is Yara 27N, a premium quality product. It was purchased for €560/t (VAT exclusive).

The lowest price that CAN (27.5%) can be sourced south of the border is €700 to €740/t, depending on location, according to IFA grain committee chair Kieran McEvoy.

"Grain markets are moving in the wrong direction, land rental is going up, and here tillage farmers find themselves caught in a loop," he said.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland programme, he said: "We can't wait for prices in the south to realign themselves because we have to spread our fertiliser in February, March and April. Most tillage farms will be finished with fertiliser by 15 April."

Better value

While VAT is payable at 20% on fertiliser being delivered from Northern Ireland into the Republic, that VAT is not levied on VAT-registered farmers, IFA grain committee vice-chair John Murphy said.

He said almost all tillage farmers are VAT-registered and thus are being asked to pay a differential of up to €200/t in fertiliser price.

The fertiliser was delivered to Murphy's yard in Wexford at the €560/t price. "The promise of falling prices is worth nothing to us," he said. "We need our fertiliser now."

VAT does not apply on fertiliser from Northern Ireland sold in Northern Ireland. Likewise, there is no VAT on fertiliser sold by merchants and co-ops in the Republic of Ireland to farmers.

John Murphy said that this time last year, when farmers were paying record prices, the fertiliser trade said that it had to sell at the replacement price, even though some of their stock in hand had been bought in late 2021 at lower prices.

"The replacement price should be applying now," he said, "it can't be a case of heads I win, tails you lose."