Calls for the Government to take steps to support the increased production of nitrogen fertiliser in the UK have been made in an influential select committee report.
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee has demanded that the Government should examine the incentives offered by competing nations and produce an action plan within the next 6 months.
The committee said nitrogen fertiliser plays a critical role in UK food security and the production of ammonia used in it creates larges amount of carbon dioxide gas a by-product, which is vital for the food supply chain.
However, the UK only has a single nitrogen fertiliser plant, which is undermining UK food security and the lack of alternatives has caused UK prices to increase markedly at a time when there are already considerable price pressure on the sector.
It has welcomed the establishment of a Fertiliser Industry Taskforce, but said the Government had not set out the steps it was going to take to protect domestic production of nitrogen fertiliser and ammonia used in it.
Given the importance of nitrogen fertiliser to UK food production and food security, the Government should set out how it will ensure its continued production in the UK
So far, in the light of high fertiliser prices which peaked at more than 1,000/tonne for ammonium nitrate, the Government has decided to change the way it makes Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments, which will now be made in 2 instalments. Farmers with eligible applications received half of their payments at the end of last month (July), with the rest coming in December.
“Given the importance of nitrogen fertiliser to UK food production and food security, the Government should set out how it will ensure its continued production in the UK, including the resumption of ammonia production to help support CO2 supplies. Looking ahead, the Government should take steps to support the increased production of nitrogen fertiliser,” the report concluded.
The report, “Food Security,” addressed the availability and affordability of food following major price rises over the past year.
Ed Barker, head of policy and external affairs at the Agricultural Industry Confederation (AIC), welcomed its findings. Barker, who gave evidence to the committee last November, had told MPs that other competitor countries had taken action on nitrogen availability.
Given that Europe and the United States are intervening in their own fertiliser sectors directly, it seems completely remiss for the UK to do nothing
Ed Barker, head of policy and external affairs at the Agricultural Industry Confederation (AIC)
Reacting to the report’s publication, Barker added: “We welcome the key findings of the EFRA select committee report. AIC will continue to work with the committee and MPs as part of its efforts to represent the interests of UK agri-supply businesses.”
The report also said the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak should chair a dedicated food security summit later this year, adding that it should become an annual event. Each summit should cover the 5 statutory aspects of food security set out in the Agriculture Act 2020.