Russia can get monopoly over EU fertiliser market due to new European rules

Russia can get monopoly over EU fertiliser market due to new European rules Photo: Cjp24

Europe is considering new rules on fertiliser production and use, which include limiting the content of contaminants such as cadmium in fertilisers. The potential amendments are highly favourable to Russian suppliers because rival products from North Africa and China won't meet the new requirements.

New EU rules to limit the amount of toxin in fertilisers can give Russia an ''effective monopoly'' over the market and power over European food supply, claims The Telegraph. Last week, the European Commission began trilateral talks between itself, the European Parliament and member states on modernised rules on fertiliser production including limits on contaminants like cadmium. According to the proposals, cadmium levels should be first limited to 60mg/kg, then to 40mg/kg after six years and to 20mg/kg at the final stage (after 10 years). Initially, the timescales were tougher, but the European Parliament mitigated the requirements. New legislation is supposed to pass by the end of June.

Cadmium limits will help protect people's health, as the toxin may cause organ failure, arthritis and fertility problems, believe supporters. Nevertheless, several EU member states that consider the limits too strict are expected to oppose the rules. Opponents, including Britain's National Farmers' Union (NFU), state that the limits go beyond the level necessary to protect human health, and there is no evidence supporting the opposite. They also point out that the amendments will enable Russian suppliers to dominate the market.

Limiting cadmium level will protect people's health, supporters say in defence of new rules. Photo: Public Health Image Library

Indeed, phosphates mined by North African and Chinese fertiliser producers have higher levels of cadmium than those from Russia. Suppliers unable to invest in costly technology to reduce these levels may lose access to the European market. ''There's a very real risk if these limits go ahead, it will give Russia an effective monopoly over the European fertiliser market and greater power over our food supply,'' commented an unnamed fertiliser industry source. The NFU also considers that Europe can become ''solely dependent on Russia to supply phosphate'' because of the new rules. It calls for the EU to ''come to a sensible, evidence-based position which ensures that farmers are not left at a disadvantage in the global market''.

Environmental campaigners, in turn, insist that the reforms are necessary, as cadmium is a carcinogen linked to osteoporosis, kidney failure, heart disease and fertility problems. ''Our positions remain unchanged and we look forward to an ambitious deal on phosphate fertilisers,'' a European Commission spokesperson said.

By Anna Litvina