Ferts industry told to end secrecy

The only fertiliser manufacturer now left in the UK has been urged to beef up its communications with farmers or risk accusations of taking advantage of its position.

NFU president Peter Kendall said at yesterday's Cereals 08 event in Lincolnshire that the first year with just one manufacturer - GrowHow - had been characterised by "appallingly poor communication" from the whole sector.

"The NFU is challenging the fertiliser industry to get on the front foot when it comes to communications with farmers, and to give a clear indication of why they have reorganised their channels of supply," he said.

"The appallingly poor communication from fertiliser manufacturers has led to real concern among farmers that they could take advantage of being a single supplier."

Mr Kendall warned that the NFU was "energetically" monitoring fertiliser prices throughout Europe to ensure the competitiveness of UK agriculture.

"If prices get out of kilter with our competitors, then we will make representation to the appropriate parties regarding the market position," he said.

Mr Kendall also took the opportunity to urge the Government to make up its mind - the right way - on set-aside policy.

"We have the absurd situation of having the Prime Minister and Chancellor calling meetings over concerns about food availability while at the same time DEFRA is prevaricating over whether to mandate farmers to take more land out of production in the form of environmental set-aside," he said.

"Surely it is time to unleash that productive capacity: We already have a plethora of agri-environmental schemes, cross compliance and regulation overkill.

"Extra production is necessary to meet food demand, and to deliver a plentiful supply of feed into the livestock sector. It is time to let farmers farm."

Mr Kendall also warned of the threat of 30% of pesticides being removed from the market by new EU regulations, with dramatic effects on crop protection and food production.

"We are putting a serious resource into fighting this threat, the severity of which cannot be underestimated," he said.