The present crisis should not take away from the long-term contribution and the value of having a healthy domestic fertiliser industry, a representative body for European fertiliser producers has said.

The EU fertiliser industry for many years guaranteed farmers a secure supply of affordable and quality fertilisers, according to the director general of Fertilizers Europe, Jacob Hansen.

Thereby, the industry supported EU food security and the current crisis, which he described as a “short-term problem”, should not take away from the value a healthy domestic fertiliser industry has in the long term.

The present gas crisis has led to a very important shutdown of the European nitrogen (N) fertiliser industry, and the lack of European products has been replaced with imports, he said.

However, there is no point in changing dependence on Russian gas with Russian fertiliser, Hansen said adding that a long-term strategy is needed for the fertiliser industry in Europe.

While it is crucial to have a strong European fertiliser industry for food security and Europe’s strategic autonomy, the director general also said:

“It is important to deliver on EU climate objectives and, in this case, we need to build an important green ammonia and green fertiliser industry in Europe.”

With the experience the industry has in plant nutrition and agronomy, he said, it can help to commercialise and efficiently produce new types of fertilising products combining mineral and organic material.

Organic fertiliser

Organic nutrients can be mixed with mineral fertilisers – N, phosphorous (P) and potash (K) – which will most often result in better products with higher economic efficiency, he said.

However, the amount of organic nutrients available must be considered, as the biggest source, manure, is already fully utilised, Hansen added.

Due to the insufficient availability of manure in some European countries and less livestock-intensive areas, mineral fertilisers are becoming indispensable in some regions, he said.

A total of 7.8 million tonnes of organic nitrogen are currently recycled by EU fertiliser producers, with the vast majority coming from manure (7.1 million tonnes), according to Hansen.

In comparison, 10.9 million tonnes of mineral nitrogen are being used every year, he added.

“Manure is the main nutrient-rich side stream in the EU, however it is already to a great extent recycled but not always optimally due to low transportability.

“But even with better distribution of available resources, there will still be a need for additional mineral fertiliser nutrient inputs, especially for N,” researcher Prof. Lars Stoumann Jensen at Copenhagen University said.

Mineral fertilisers remain key for food security in Europe and account for 50% of all food produced, according to the director general of Fertilizers Europe.