End of potash import ban good news for EU farmers

  
Disclaimer: all opinions in this column reflect the views of their authors’, not of EurActiv.com PLC.

A recent decision to end an EU ban on potash imports should improve the bloc's food security and boost the competitiveness of its farms, writes potash importer John Scollay in an exclusive op-ed for EurActiv.

This op-ed was sent exclusively to EurActiv by John Scollay, managing director of potash importer Fintec.

"While it doesn't usually feature in public debate, potash is essential in order to maintain and expand food production - an ever increasing concern as farmers seek to balance greater exposure to costs against the needs to find ways to increase yields.

As a fertiliser, potash is a key nutrient for the production of crops, and to date there is no substitute for it in agriculture.

This op-ed was sent exclusively to EurActiv by John Scollay, managing director of potash importer Fintec.

"While it doesn't usually feature in public debate, potash is essential in order to maintain and expand food production - an ever increasing concern as farmers seek to balance greater exposure to costs against the needs to find ways to increase yields.

As a fertiliser, potash is a key nutrient for the production of crops, and to date there is no substitute for it in agriculture.

The potash business is equally unique. It is produced by a small, consolidated group of multinational companies in only 12 locations around the world. Europe, with limited mines, relies on imports – the closest source of which is Belarus, followed by Israel and Russia.

Since 1992, the European Union has had anti-dumping measures in place against potash imports from Russia and Belarus that prevent low priced product entering the single market. The restrictions, however, have had the effect of limiting the availability of reasonably priced supplies of this vital input in food production.

But the potash market has changed beyond recognition since these measures were put in force. The EU industry has been reporting robust and record profits for many years, and the world has changed radically since 1992, when the breakdown of the USSR led to a jump in exports to the EU at low and volatile prices.

The demand for potash has recovered strongly, with potash prices more than doubling since 2007.

The industry and the agricultural community, concerned at the rising cost of essential farm inputs, soon realised that the measures were no longer needed. The measures were not only pushing up European farmers' costs and therefore food prices, but also restricting the supply of potash at a time when this mineral fertiliser is in great demand.

A request for an interim review of the measures was made by our company, Fintec, and supported by a number of organisations in the agricultural sector, including the National Farmers' Union and several potash importer associations.

Several members of the agriculture committee of the European Parliament also emphasised to the institutions that the anti-dumping measures were harming European agriculture. In the expiry review process, the Commission did not receive a sufficiently substantiated request to maintain the outdated restrictions.

Last week, the European Commission announced that the anti-dumping measures on potash imports from Russia and Belarus will expire as of 13 July 2011. This is great news for all.

In the short term, the decision paves way for imports, eases supply concerns and allows European farmers to choose from a larger range of suppliers of fertiliser. In the long run, it helps secure Europe's production capacity and our ability to produce sufficient food for all at affordable prices."

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