Addressing the fertiliser Crisis in Europe: Actions for availability, affordability, and sustainability

The global fertiliser crisis has reached a critical level in Europe, where farmers are facing unprecedented challenges due to record prices. The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted an opinion on its March plenary on the EU strategy on fertilisers calling for availability, affordability and sustainability.

This crisis has been exacerbated by the recent war in Ukraine, making it a serious threat to European agriculture and global food security. The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) at its March plenary welcomed the communication from the Commission on ensuring the availability and affordability of fertilisers, highlighting the need for emergency domestic actions to limit the impact of the crisis.

Farmers face high fertiliser prices which impact farmers' livelihoods and food production costs, and consequently food prices for the consumers. We welcome the European Commission' communication on ensuring their availability and affordability as fertilisers are a key input for the majority of current EU's food production, being essential nutrients for plant growth. However, we believe that further emergency and longer- term actions are also required to increase the overall resilience of the system and limit the impact of future crises said the rapporteur Mr Arnold PUECH d'ALISSAC.

The EESC has proposed various corrective measures to improve the functioning of the EU fertiliser market, including direct support to the most affected nitrogen manufacturers and farmers through State Aid in the EU. However, the committee also stresses the need to address fertiliser supply and prices by facilitating imports and fostering strategic autonomy. This can be achieved by suspending EU import tariffs on all fertilisers, facilitating fertiliser logistics, and providing regulatory flexibilities.

In addition to short-term measures, the EESC has called for medium-term solutions to limit the EU's dependence on imported mineral fertilisers and reduce the environmental footprint of crop fertilisation. This can be done by enhancing plant nutrient efficiency, partly substituting synthetic fertilisers with recycled livestock manure and other waste, and improving Europe's self-sufficiency in fertiliser production. These measures will support the agro-ecological transformation of farming, which is necessary for sustainable agriculture in the long run to ensure a comprehensive food policy and achieve the objectives of the EGD F2F Strategy , added Peter Schmidt,  Agriculture, Rural Development and the Envoroment Section President.

The EESC has also welcomed the establishment of a new fertiliser market observatory in 2023, which will increase transparency in the EU fertiliser market through the regular publication of representative domestic market prices and the development of public statistics on fertiliser production and use.

The EESC further emphasizes the need to take into consideration the social aspects related to farmers, food consumers, and industry workers when adopting new measures. The fertiliser crisis has a significant impact on these groups, and solutions should be implemented with their needs in mind.

On the international stage, the EESC urges the EU to step up actions against global food insecurity by promoting fertiliser transparency, availability, and effective use. Global fertiliser trade should be facilitated by keeping markets open, avoiding export restrictions and bans, increasing fertiliser production in Europe, and expanding logistic routes.

In conclusion, the fertiliser crisis in Europe requires urgent attention and action from policymakers. The EESC's proposals provide a comprehensive approach to address the challenges and ensure the availability and affordability of fertilisers, while promoting sustainability and supporting the agricultural sector.