The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) has clarified that there is no “clear proof” of fertiliser being purchased in Northern Ireland (NI) that is not being registered on the National Fertiliser Database (NFD).

However, the department has called upon stakeholders to provide details of fertiliser imports that are breaching legislation.

A DAFM spokesperson confirmed that: “There have been previous complaints made by the fertiliser trade that have been based on anecdotal evidence without any clear proof being provided of product being purchased in NI and not being declared as an import.

“The department will again be inviting stakeholders to provide specific details of any case where there is an alleged breach of the legislation, thereby providing a stronger basis for action by the department.”

Last week Agriland spoke with chief inspector at the DAFM, Bill Callanan regarding purchases of fertiliser from NI.

Callanan said the NFD was introduced to better nutrient movement in a way to help farmers in terms of how they can report, how they can contribute to their own sustainability metrics.

There has always been a legitimate trade of fertiliser from NI, and this trade will continue but there should be appropriate reporting under the NFD, according to Callanan.

The chief inspector went on to say that if there is proof of clear and deliberate avoidance of the requirements of the database, you will be deemed ineligible for derogation.

That will also include the second year, meaning for a few years you will not be able to get a derogation and there are legislative provisions in term of fines is somebody is somebody is deliberately circumventing.

“We don’t do a check of the fertiliser database for every farmer in the country – it was never designed that way,” Callanan added.

The aims of the NFD are as follows:

  • Provide accurate tracking of sales of fertiliser (incl. lime) throughout the supply chain;
  • Achieve better compliance with water quality and environmental ambitions;
  • Provide data for monitoring climate targets;
  • Fulfils a commitment to the European Commission and key to securing any future nitrates derogation;
  • In time, simplify and provide reliable data to farmers for private sustainability schemes and department schemes.

There has been 61,833t of fertiliser products imported to the Republic of Ireland from NI since the introduction of the NFD.

The DAFM confirmed to Agriland that since the NFD was established in September 2023, there have been 34 fertiliser economic operators who registered these imports as of June 2024.

25 of these operators were registered as fertiliser end users.