Fertiliser security

Fertiliser security, environmental protection and the need to feed a growing world are the three key challenges facing the fertiliser sector, an industry event was told this month.

Speaking at the Annual Fertiliser Sector Dinner at the Institute of Directors in London, Agricultural Industries Confederation Fertiliser Sector chairman Mike Buchan highlighted the three key areas. This year’s Oslo bombing placed fertiliser security high on government agendas across the European Union, he said, but the UK was well placed to respond, thanks to widespread uptake of the Fertiliser Industry Assurance Scheme.

“There have been those who questioned the value of the scheme,” said Mr Buchan. “Let me assure you that when questions flow naturally from incidents such as Oslo, the established presence of FIAS is an essential basis for a constructive dialogue with government and the security services.

“In essence, FIAS is the right scheme in the right place at the right time.”

But there will undoubtedly be some form of European regulation of fertiliser security, delegates heard. Addressing the challenge of ‘sustainable intensification’ which has emerged from the Foresight Report produced by Professor Sir John Beddington, Mr Buchan said the fertiliser sector could be proud of what has been achieved.

The industry had made massive investments to shrink its carbon footprint throughout the manufacture and distribution processes in the UK and across the EU, he said. This should be taken into account when farmers are looking at the products they purchase.

“Could I suggest that products manufactured to stringent environmental standards may be worthy of a small premium?,” asked Mr Buchan.

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The fertiliser sector made a “significant contribution” to the Greenhouse Gas Action Plan, drawn up by AIC and other farming and landowning bodies, he added. It has also contributed to a range of other initiatives including the Campaign for the Farmed Environment, professional nutrient management and catchment initiatives.

Mr Buchan suggested the time may be right to look at more holistic campaigns and advisory packages to meet the needs of the farming industry.

“If a farmer has to address all these issues, the least we can do is advise him in a more joined up way,” he said.

Despite the challenges of security and regulation, it must not be forgotten that the primary purpose of fertiliser is to boost output and so help farming to feed the growing world, he pointed out, with the fertiliser industry continually investing in improvements to its technical know-how and passing that knowledge on to farmers.

“The FACTS scheme goes from strength to strength in ensuring the latest knowledge is readily available and put to work as quickly as possible,” he said.

“Fertiliser remains a vital foundation on which those charged with delivery food securing along with environmental protection must build. Through our research, development and advisory networks, we have a right to be recognised and respected as professionals.”