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Agriculture and rural development

Ensuring availability and affordability of fertilisers

Measures to maintain a sustainable European fertilisers’ production, optimise use and reduce dependency on mineral fertilisers.

Addressing the need for available and affordable fertilisers

Fertilisers play a significant role for food security. Fertilisers can be inorganic or organic. Their main nutrients are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The EU depends on imports for 30%, 68% and 85% of its consumption of inorganic nitrogen, phosphates and potash nutrients respectively. Furthermore, at the peaks of gas prices during the summer in 2022, gas had come to account for up to 90% of the variable production cost of nitrogen fertilisers. This has resulted in a 149% increase in the price of these products for EU farmers of September 2022 compared with September 2021. Fertiliser prices are decreasing since October 2022, but remain higher in comparison to previous years.

Purchases of fertilisers represent around 6% on average of the share of input costs and up to 12% for arable crops farmers. The objective of the EU’s Farm to Fork strategy is to reduce nutrient losses by 50% by 2030 while preserving soil fertility. The increase in prices has led farmers to buy and use lower quantities of fertilisers on their crops and to the temporary reduction of the EU’s own production. Fertiliser shortages can have short-term effects on yield. Lower agricultural yields mean less food.

This increases dependence on imports and market volatility exposes EU farmers and the European fertiliser sector. In the context of a global mineral fertiliser and energy crisis weighing on global food security and food prices, the European Commission adopted a Communication on 9 November 2022, which presented a wide range of actions and guidance on how to tackle the challenges that EU farmers and industry, as well as developing countries, are currently facing. The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and the subsequent strong increase in energy and mineral fertiliser prices highlighted the need for greater autonomy and efficiency in the production and use of fertilisers.

Supporting farmers to optimise their fertiliser use

The Communication outlines several best practices and ways ahead to help farmers optimise their fertiliser use and reduce their dependencies while securing yields:

  • Targeted financial support: The amended Temporary Crisis and Transition Framework for State Aid enables EU countries to provide specific support to farmers and fertiliser producers. Funds generated by measures such as the cap on the market revenues of certain electricity generators and the solidarity contribution can also be used, subject to the applicable conditions, for purposes of national support schemes.
  • Improved market transparency: The Commission's Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development has set up the EU Fertlisers Market Observatory, which is an informal group of experts representing EU organisations that have activities in the fertiliser and food supply chains.
  • Sustainable farming practices and training: The Commission will work with EU countries to ensure that relevant interventions such as nutrient management plans, soil health improvement, precision farming, organic farming, use of leguminous crops in crop rotation schemes, etc. are widely adopted by farmers. When needed, the Commission will invite EU countries to look into further prioritisation and increasing the ambition of such interventions in future revisions of their CAP Strategic Plans. Proper advice and training will also be provided to farmers, with the contribution of the new Farm sustainability tool for nutrients (FaST).
  • More organic fertilisers: The substitution, whenever possible, of mineral fertilisers by organic fertilisers will reduce EU’s dependence on gas as well as the carbon footprint of the sector.
  • Greening the production of fertilisers: The Commission will encourage EU countries to support investments in clean hydrogen and biomethane for ammonia production.
  • Trade diversification: The Commission has reached out to alternative suppliers of fertilisers to compensate for previous supplies from Belarus and Russia. Following the Commission's proposal, the Council adopted in December 2022 the temporary suspension of trade tariffs for ammonia and urea, except those from Russia and Belarus, used to produce nitrogen fertilisers. The aim is to address concerns regarding the availability, affordability and thus security of supply for these products during the 2023 spring and summer seasons.

Operational programmes relating to fertiliser use in EU countries

The agricultural European Innovation Partnership (EIP-AGRI) also supports operational programmes relating to fertiliser use in EU countries, such as:

Continuing the EU’s contribution to global food security

Farmers worldwide and notably those in vulnerable countries acutely feel the impact of the tight fertiliser market. In the international field, the Commission will continue its efforts to improve global food security and:

  • Continue to work with EU members and European Financial Institutions, in a Team Europe approach based on solidarity, production, trade and multilateralism.
  • Cooperate with selected EU partner countries, including through the Global Fertilisers Challenge, to reduce their dependence and consumption on imported mineral fertilisers.
  • Improve global market transparency, by contributing to relevant international initiatives concerning fertilisers, in particular the G20’s Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS).
  • Continue to work with EU members to ensure that global trade in agri-food products, including fertilisers, is able to proceed smoothly.

Beyond fertilisers’ availability, affordability and use, the EU will continue to address the root causes of hunger, including conflict/insecurity, climate change, and economic shocks. It will do so by working with its international partners and EU members to support the enhancement of local production capacities and the creation of sustainable and resilient food systems in the most fragile contexts.

More information

Communication and annexes: Ensuring availability and affordability of fertilisers

Q&A on the Communication on ensuring availability and affordability of fertilisers


Factsheet: Ensuring the availability and affordability of fertilisers