More Circular Agriculture Hostage to Political Wrangling

Brussels – October 6, 2016

About half of the fertilising products covered by a draft regulation currently under consideration by the Council and European Parliament risk having their Single Market access deferred indefinitely due to Member State concerns about where the EU sources its phosphate. The parliament’s work on the draft has already been delayed due to months of discussing whether the ENVI or AGRI committee should have exclusive competency over the annexes. These procedural delays combine with long implementation periods inserted in the presidency draft, making the Single Market seem ever further away for the affected product categories, like biostimulants.

Biostimulants help farmers meet growing agricultural demand sustainably by improving nutrient use, crop quality and increasing plants’ ability to withstand harsh growing conditions. Without a single market for biostimulants, the EU’s leadership position in this innovative sector cannot be preserved and European farmers cannot compete on equal terms. EBIC is deeply concerned about the current regulatory delays and urges all parties to find a rapid resolution to unblock the situation.

When the European Commission published the draft regulation “laying down rules on the making available on the market of CE marked fertilising products” it explained that most mineral fertilisers have access to the European Single Market, whereas virtually no organic-based fertilisers, soil improvers, growing media, agronomic additives and biostimulants currently do.

The draft regulation is intended to correct this lack of access with a view to increasing the use of organic and secondary raw materials in agriculture. The draft regulation was thus welcomed by sectors like biostimulants whose producers currently face a fragmented market.

“The Single Market access of innovative families of fertilising products like biostimulants and the EU’s ambitions for the Circular Economy should not be the victims of understandably difficult conversations about the balance between environmental and geopolitical considerations,” said Giuseppe Natale, President of the European Biostimulants Industry Council (EBIC) and CEO of Valagro, an agricultural input company that also produces mineral fertilisers.

“Mineral fertilisers are – and will remain – a key tool for farmers, but the stakes of a delay of the draft regulation are not the same for them because they already have access to the Single Market. Delay would be an inconvenience for such products, whereas it would be a major obstacle to growth and innovation for the sectors that do not currently have access to the Single Market.”

“It makes sense from a technical perspective for all fertilising products to be in the same regulation – because farmers use them together – and that is our preferred option. With this objective in mind, we do not want to see contentious issues and internal institutional wrangling becoming an obstacle to the creation of a Single Market for the vast majority of families of products. We urge policymakers, all Member States and the other EU institutions to engage with EBIC and its counterparts to find a speedy way forward so that the product families that do not currently have access to the Single Market can access it without further delay.”

Mr. Natale concluded, “European farmers should not have to wait for access to other innovative products because of the debate over cadmium or any other issues. Growth and job creation should not have to wait for the resolution of intra-parliamentary conflicts. Moving towards more circular agriculture should not have to wait.”

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