Documents considered by the Committee on 25 April 2017 Contents

13Marketing of fertilisers

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; scrutiny waiver granted; further information requested

Document details

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

Legal base

Article 114, TFEU; ordinary legislative procedure; QMV


Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Document Number

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

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

13.1Fertilisers may only circulate freely in the internal market if they comply with a set of conditions relating to agronomic efficacy, nutrient content, packaging, identification and traceability. Such products receive the designation “EC fertiliser”.

13.2At the moment, virtually all product types carrying the “EC fertiliser” designation are conventional inorganic fertilisers, 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.

13.3The Commission accordingly proposed a new Regulation establishing conditions with which all EC marked fertiliser products—including those made from recycled or organic materials—would have to comply in order to move freely on the internal market.

13.4When the Committee first considered this proposal, at its meeting of 4 May 2016, we noted the Government’s support but retained the proposal under scrutiny awaiting the Government’s detailed assessment. We subsequently engaged in correspondence with the Government around particular concerns regarding the setting of limits on cadmium content.

13.5The Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (George Eustice) has now written again, updating us on progress and requesting that the proposal be released from scrutiny in advance of likely agreement before the end of June. He indicates that the Government has secured a number of improvements to the text and, while there are still a few issues to be finalised, he expects to be able to deliver a good result for the UK.

13.6We thank the Minister for his letter. While it would be premature to release the proposal from scrutiny as the Government has given us no insight as to the likely position of the European Parliament, we are content to grant a scrutiny waiver. We ask that the Minister write to the Committee by the end of June, providing an update on developments in both the Council and the European Parliament.

Full details of the documents

Proposal for a Regulation laying down rules for the making available on the market of CE marked fertiliser products: (37625), 7396/16 + ADDs 1–4, COM(16) 157.


13.7The main instrument setting out EU rules applicable to fertilisers25 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 Commission proposes to replace that Regulation with a new set of rules allowing organic fertilisers to be included. Further details on the background to, and content of, the proposal were set out in our Report of 4 May 2016.26

13.8At our meeting of 4 May 2016, we noted the Government’s support for the proposal and concluded that it was unlikely to give rise to any major issues. We awaited the outcome of the Government’s more detailed assessment before taking any further action.

13.9The Minister wrote to us on 16 September 2016,27 expressing significant concern about the Commission’s impact assessment. Further to our reply of 26 October, the Minister clarified on 7 December28 that the Government’s concerns related specifically to the setting of limits on cadmium content, rather than the Regulation as a whole. He explained that the proposed cadmium limits would significantly restrict the supply of phosphate rock, which is used in the production of fertiliser. He proposes a limit that would mitigate the potential risks of cadmium deposited in soils from fertilisers, without setting them so low that the burden on consumers, farmers and manufacturers becomes excessive.

Minister’s letter of 19 April 2017

13.10The Minister explains that good progress has been made in Council discussions. His view remains that the proposal is overall a good regulation that will create a level playing field for organic and organo-mineral fertilisers, promote innovation, and protect national security by improving the safety of ammonium nitrate fertilisers within the EU.

13.11He explains progress in the following terms:

“We have secured a number of improvements to the text in the course of negotiations, including a tightening of the limits on macroscopic plastic impurities in digestates and composts to bring the requirements closer in line to the high quality demanded by our domestic industry-led PAS standards. There are still a few issues to be finalised, including cadmium limits and the frequency of detonation resistance testing for ammonium nitrate fertilisers, but much of the technical work has been done, and with your support we expect to deliver a good result for the UK.”

13.12The Minister notes that the Presidency is seeking to agree a text before the end of June. He requests that the Committee consider releasing the proposal from scrutiny in advance of the dissolution of Parliament.

Previous Committee Reports

Thirty-second Report HC 342-xxxi (2015–16), chapter 4 (4 May 2016).

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

26 Thirty-second Report HC 342–xxxi (2015–16), chapter 4 (4 May 2016).

27 April 2017