Brussels hesitates with plans for all-in European fertilizer policy

The European Commission is finalizing an announcement about the expensive fertilizer. According to leaked concept versions, Brussels will not come up with a new EU fertilizer subsidy or with a rigged action plan. However, EU countries are allowed even more to use existing subsidy pots for fertilizer.

That announcement will be published on Wednesday, according to the current planning. The Brussels announcement is likely to be a setback for several EU countries. For example, Spain and France had asked for a real fertilizer policy. Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski discussed this a few weeks ago with European fertilizer factories such as Yara and Borealis. 

European agricultural umbrella organizations have been asking for the EU import duties for (read: American and Russian) fertilizer to be lifted for some time now. They can produce it cheaper (without expensive gas). However, the European fertilizer manufacturers are against this. Their competitive position is already not too rosy, and the fertilizer market is increasingly in the hands of large Chinese and Russian chemical groups.

It now looks like Brussels is responding to those European companies, and will also maintain the import duties in 2023. If the situation worsens, it can always be adjusted later. The same applies to the (still: rejected) German financing proposal. Germany wants 'new' EU money for fertilizer purchase, partly to be paid from a EU-wide fertilizer tax.

However, Brussels does want the EU countries to include an exception in their energy emergency plans for factories that make fertilizer. They should be exempt from discounts or restrictions.

A leaked draft version of the announcement also shows that the European Commission is sticking to the farm-to-fork strategy, which aims to reduce the use of fertilizer by 20 percent in eight years' time. The Commission wants to encourage the use of more 'natural fertilisers', but warns that smaller harvests and lower yields must be taken into account.

It is not yet clear under which EU Commissioner this fertilizer plan falls. Agriculture Commissioner Wojciechowski has previously dealt with it extensively, as have his colleagues Timmermans (Climate), Sinkevicius (Environment) and Kyriakides (Health).