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The impact of limiting cadmium levels in European fertilizers – a constructive approach

Fertecon White Paper outlines potential effects of current EU proposals on the fertilizer sector and member states

In recent years, the words ‘phosphate’ and ‘cadmium’ have jointly come under the spotlight even in non-specialised press articles. On more than one occasion they have depicted scary, almost ‘doomsday’ scenarios that may come as a consequence of regulatory changes put forward by the European Commission.

Given the large amount of sometimes misleading and exaggerated claims that have been made, IEG Policy’s sister analyst Fertecon has drawn on its many years of independent fertilizer market analysis, to produce a White Paper that will help enable a properly informed policy decision to be made.

The Paper does not take a position on the issues at stake but rather presents a thorough analysis of the proposal to limit cadmium levels and its potential effects.

EU proposals

In 2016, the European Commission proposed an overhaul of the EU’s existing fertilisers regulation, which came into effect in 2003.

Included in the plans were rule changes that would introduce limits on the presence of heavy metals such as cadmium in phosphate fertilisers to 40mg/kg P2Oafter 3 years, down from an initial 60mg/kg, and then 20mg/kg after 12 years.

Subsequently, last year the European Parliament presented its position. While largely agreeing with the Commission on key aspects, MEPs want to see the 40mg/kg cadmium limit applied after 6 years (instead of 3) and 20mg/kg after 16 years (instead of 12).

The European Council, meanwhile, is much more relaxed with its position setting 60mg/kg limit to come in after 8 years following the adoption of the regulation, with a continuation of the current exemptions for three member states (Austria, Finland and Sweden) and a further assessment of cadmium levels 16 years after entry into force of the rules.

Furthermore, the Council preserved the principle of ‘optional harmonisation’ among member states, which means that fertiliser manufacturers will either have the choice to follow the common EU requirements and apply a ‘CE mark’ on their products, making it freely tradeable in the single market; or produce it according to national standards, which only allows them to sell the products in member states with similar or less strict requirements.

The revision of the EU Fertiliser Regulation has now moved on to the ‘trilogue’ stage with Parliament and Council, with the support of the Commission, due to work on a jointly acceptable text for adoption across the bloc.

White Paper

The Fertecon White Paper focuses on the proposals to limit cadmium levels in fertilizers in the EU, taking a constructive approach that looks at a number of key areas, including:

  • The phosphate value chain

  • The potential consequences of the policy

  • Demand for phosphate fertilizers in the EU market

  • Supply of low-cadmium phosphate rock reserves

  • How industry and member states can adapt to the policy changes

  • The risks and uncertainties associated with lowering cadmium levels

To download your copy of the Fertecon White Paper titled ‘The real impact of a limit to cadmium in European fertilizers – a constructive approach’, follow this link.

For any follow up questions, please contact the author of the paper, Alberto Persona, direct via this email address:

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