Documents considered by the Committee on 4 May 2016 Contents

4Marketing of fertilisers

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; further information awaited

Document details

Proposal for a Regulation laying down rules for the making available on the market of CE marked fertiliser products

Legal base

Article 114 TFEU; ordinary legislative procedure; QMV

Department

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Document Numbers

(37625), 7396/16 + ADDs 1–4, COM(16) 157

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

4.1Regulation (EC) No. 2003/2003 provides for the designation of “EC fertiliser” to be applied to products which comply with the conditions laid down governing their agronomic efficacy and nutrient content, and it also sets out a number of conditions relating to their packaging, identification, traceability, marking and labelling. However, virtually all product types currently covered by the Regulation are conventional inorganic fertilisers, typically produced from imported material extracted from mines or involving both energy consuming and carbon dioxide intensive chemical processes, whilst virtually all those produced from organic materials or recycled bio-waste are excluded, notwithstanding the contribution which they could make to the so-called “circular economy” by generating value from secondary, domestically sourced resources.

4.2In particular, the Commission has pointed out that, although the Regulation is clearly tailored for well characterised inorganic fertilisers, it lacks the robust control mechanisms and safeguards needed in the case of products using inherently variable organic or secondary material sources. As a consequence, these remain un-harmonised, with many Member States having widely different detailed national rules, which make mutual recognition13—and the expansion of organic fertilisers from one Member State market to another—extremely difficult. Furthermore, the lengthy type approval process does not sit easily with the rapid cycle which now exists for the development even of new inorganic products, and, as the emphasis has been on the nutrient content of fertilisers rather than their environmental impact, this has given rise to risks of contamination of surface and groundwater, and of food and soil, with cadmium being seen as a particular concern.

4.3It has accordingly put forward this proposal, which would repeal Regulation (EC) No. 2003/2003, and replace it by a new Regulation establishing the conditions with which all CE marked fertiliser products—including those made from recycled or organic materials—would have to comply in order to move freely on the internal market. In order to acquire CE status, a product would have to meet the requirements set out in detailed Annexes, dealing with the relevant product function category (ie. inorganic fertiliser, organic fertiliser, liming material etc); the relevant product component category; and its labelling. Also, before placing such a product on the market, the manufacturer would have to carry out a conformity assessment, demonstrating compliance with those provisions before the CE marking can be used. Corresponding obligations would also be placed on importers and distributors.

4.4The Government has noted the various elements in the proposal, and, overall, describes it as proportionate and justified and the Commission’s objective as valid, commenting in particular on the difficulties of mutual recognition in this area. It says that a more detailed assessment is currently being made of the potential implications for UK businesses and transport, and that economists are reviewing the impact assessment produced by the Commission.

4.5The legislation in this area is extremely detailed and complex, but the basic aim of this proposal—to extend its scope to include organic fertilisers—is supported by the UK. It seems unlikely, therefore, to give rise to any major issues, but, as the Government has said it will be carrying out a more detailed assessment, we think it would be sensible to await the outcome of that, whilst drawing the document to the attention of the House in the meantime.

Full details of the documents

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down rules for the making available on the market of CE marked fertiliser products and amending Regulations (EC) No 1069/2009 and (EC) No. 1107/2009: (37625), 7396/16 + ADDs 1–4, COM(16) 157.

Background

4.6The main instrument setting out EU rules applicable to fertilisers14 is Regulation (EC) No. 2003/2003, which provides for the designation of “EC fertiliser” to be applied to products which comply with the conditions laid down in Annex I governing their agronomic efficacy and nutrient content. The Regulation also requires that Member States must not impede the free circulation of any such products, and it sets out a number of conditions relating to their packaging, identification, traceability, marking and labelling. These are supplemented by provisions for specific types of inorganic fertiliser, including primary nutrient fertilisers (based on nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium), secondary nutrient fertilisers (based on calcium, magnesium, sodium and sulphur) and micro-nutrient fertilisers (which contain small quantities of boron, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc essential for plant growth). Also, there are special provisions applicable to ammonium nitrate (an essential ingredient of many fertiliser products, which can be used as an explosive), aimed at rendering the product harmless before it is placed on the market.

The current document

4.7The Commission has noted that virtually all product types currently covered by the Regulation are conventional inorganic fertilisers, typically extracted from mines or produced by chemical processes which are both energy consuming and carbon dioxide intensive. However, although these account for about 80% of the total market for fertilisers, not all are classed as EC fertilisers, and about one half of the fertilisers on the market are outside the scope of the Regulation, including virtually all those produced from organic materials (such as animal or other agricultural by-products) or recycled bio-waste from the food chain. The Commission recalls that its Circular Economy Action Plan highlighted the contribution which such products could make by generating value from secondary, domestically sourced resources which would otherwise have been used directly on land or disposed to landfill waste (causing unnecessary eutrophication and greenhouse gas emissions).

4.8Despite this, it says that Regulation (EC) No. 2003/2003 is clearly tailored for well characterised inorganic fertilisers, and lacks the robust control mechanisms and safeguards needed in the case of products using inherently variable organic or secondary material sources. As a consequence, these remain un-harmonised, with many Member States having widely different detailed national rules and standards governing authorisation procedures, environmental and safety requirements, labelling, and analytical test methods, making mutual recognition—and the expansion of organic fertilisers from one Member State market to another—extremely difficult. In addition, it says that the problem is aggravated by the fact that, whilst domestic sewage sludge contains large amounts of phosphorus (which, if recycled, could cover about 20–30% of EU demand for phosphate fertilisers), this potential is largely unexploited, leaving phosphate rock, which has been identified as a critical raw material, and for which the EU is highly dependent on imported supplies, as one of the main constituents.

4.9Finally, the Commission also lists two other shortcomings in the present legislation. First, the lengthy type approval process does not sit easily with the rapid cycle which now exists for the development of new inorganic products. Secondly, the emphasis has been on the nutrient content of fertilisers rather than their environmental impact, and, although a product may only be included in Annex I of Regulation (EC) No. 2003/2003 if it does not affect human, animal or plant health or the environment, it is widely agreed that the nature of the information required and its presentation needs to be specified more closely, not least to protect surface and groundwater, and the contamination of food and soil, with cadmium being seen as a particular concern.

4.10It has accordingly put forward this proposal, which would repeal Regulation (EC) No. 2003/2003, and replace it by a new Regulation establishing the conditions with which all CE marked fertiliser products—including those made from recycled or organic materials—would have to comply in order to move freely on the internal market. At the same time, other products which comply with national provisions would still be allowed onto the market.

4.11In order to acquire CE status, a product would have to meet the requirements set out in Annex I for the relevant product function category (ie. inorganic fertiliser, organic fertiliser, liming material etc); those set out in Annex II for the relevant product component category; and be labelled in accordance with those set out in Annex III. Before placing such a product on the market, the manufacturer would have to carry out a conformity assessment in accordance with the provisions laid down in Annex IV; demonstrate compliance with the provisions in Annexes I - III of the Regulation before the CE marking can be used; and ensure that the product is appropriately labelled. Corresponding obligations would also be placed on importers and distributors.

The Government’s view

4.12In his Explanatory Memorandum of 13 April 2016, the Minister of State for Farming, Food and the Marine Environment (George Eustice) points out that the proposal will result in organic fertilisers being brought into the scope of the regulation, thus harmonising these products across the EU, and that a number of inorganic fertilisers which are currently excluded will also be covered. He also notes the proposal will repeal the existing Regulation ((EC) No. 2003/2003), but will allow already harmonised fertilisers to remain on the market subject to compliance with the new safety and quality requirements; draws attention to the Commission’s view that recycling domestic material in line with the circular economy model could reduce the EU’s dependence on imported phosphorus, thereby increasing resource efficiency and boosting investment and innovation; and that, since that the Commission will be able to amend the list of materials in CE-marked fertilising products, this should enable innovative fertilisers to be brought into scope more efficiently.

4.13The Minister also points out that the proposed regulation will introduce harmonised cadmium limits for phosphate fertilisers, in order to minimise their adverse impact on the environment and on human health, thus contributing to a reduction in the accumulation of cadmium in soil, and removing the market fragmentation which currently arises from national cadmium limits in some Member States.

4.14Overall, the Minister describes the proposal as proportionate and justified, and the Commission’s objective as valid, noting in particular the difficulties of mutual recognition in this area. He concludes by saying that a more detailed assessment is currently being made of the potential implications for UK businesses and transport, and that economists are reviewing the impact assessment produced by the Commission.

Previous Committee Reports

None.


13 Under which a Member State may not prohibit without good reason (such as the protection of the environment or human health) a product lawfully out on the market of another Member State.

14 In addition to conventional fertilisers providing plant nutrients, this term includes such products as soil improvers, liming material and potting compost.




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10 May 2016