The NFU has warned farmers towards any panic shopping for of ammonium nitrate (AN) fertiliser after producer CF Fertilisers introduced plans to completely close its second manufacturing plant in Cheshire.
NFU combinable crops board chair Matt Culley famous that CF Fertilisers’ Ince manufacturing unit had been quickly closed since October – and this had not affected the provision of latest seasonal fertiliser.
“Farmers are going to have to search for various merchandise for his or her sulphur and their compound blends, however we don’t need this announcement to panic the trade,” stated Mr Culley, talking from this week’s Cereals occasion in Cambridgeshire.
See additionally: NFU warning over lack of transparency in fertiliser markets
He urged arable growers to concentrate on their nitrogen utilization for the following cropping season, together with how a lot they want, as properly as the place they will supply their sulphur merchandise, beforehand produced at Ince.
This included exploring various choices for sulphur, such as polysulphate, and extra foliar-supplied sulphur merchandise for subsequent spring.
“Sulphur is a giant a part of our inputs. To get wholesome crops of wheat, sulphur is vital,” Mr Culley stated.
Competition from imports
CF Fertilisers UK, the nation’s solely fertiliser producer, stated it wanted to restructure its operations to guarantee a continued provide of fertiliser and carbon dioxide, the opposite key product of the manufacturing course of.
Fertiliser gross sales to home prospects had fallen by practically 30% because the 2017-18 season, it stated, “due to intense competitors from lower-cost imports”.
Following a assessment, it had determined to focus its fertiliser manufacturing operations on its Billingham facility in Teesside.
CF Fertilisers UK stated the everlasting closure of the Ince plant, north of Chester, might end in up to 283 redundancies – and it will seek the advice of unions and workers shortly.
The Billingham website produces about 128,000t of AN annually, whereas Ince had produced 95,000t earlier than it stopped manufacturing final September.
But the corporate insisted Billingham “has the capability to produce sufficient AN to meet all forecasted home buyer demand”.
“Billingham has further operational flexibility from a 40,000t ammonia storage tank and the flexibility to import lower-cost ammonia if needed,” it added.
Hours earlier than the announcement, NFU deputy president Tom Bradshaw had questioned why the Ince manufacturing unit couldn’t be reopened.
Ukraine battle affect
Fertiliser costs have soared and world provides have been hit since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. This has pushed up the worth of pure gasoline, a key ingredient within the course of, and led to extreme EU sanctions towards Russia, a significant exporter of fertiliser.
According to AHDB knowledge, UK nitrogen fertiliser costs have climbed from £281/t in April 2021 to £785/t in April this 12 months.
Defra stated CF Fertilisers’ choice whether or not to close or reopen the Ince website remained a business matter.
More transparency ‘important’ in fertiliser markets, says union
The authorities and trade should construct transparency into the fertiliser market to enhance farmer confidence in decision-making and construct resilience within the nation’s meals safety, the NFU has insisted.
NFU deputy president Tom Bradshaw stated: “The [fertiliser] value is there for a second after which it’s withdrawn. It doesn’t give farmers any time to make selections and it feels as in the event that they’re being held to ransom.”
Defra stated it recognised that better transparency within the fertiliser market was probably to assist mitigate the consequences of current value volatility. It will likely be discussing one of the best methods to deal with this with trade representatives this week.
The Agricultural Industries Confederation, which represents the UK agri-supply sector, has welcomed additional dialogue with farming stakeholders to perceive their issues relating to fertiliser markets.