‘Vulnerable’ UK food supply facing ‘unprecedented risk’ after fertiliser factory closes

Countryfile: Tom Heap speaks to farmer about fertiliser woes

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Farmers and meat processors have warned that domestic fertiliser supplies are now under threat after CF Fertilisers announced they were shutting one of their largest plants. The company will close its Ince plant near Chester which produces supplies of nitrogen fertiliser and carbon dioxide.

According to the firm, they are no longer able to keep the factory open due to soaring gas prices as well as high environmental taxes.

Production has been suspended since September last year.

However, CF Industries will keep their Billingham factory open after the Government provided a rescue deal.

Brett Nightingale, UK managing director of CF Fertilisers said there were “considerable challenges” in the industry.

He said: “As a high-cost producer in an intensely competitive global industry, we see considerable challenges to long-term sustainability from our current operational approach.”

Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association said two plants would ideally be better than one.

He said: “You’d sooner have two plants rather than one, because if something goes wrong with that one plant you’re in trouble.

“It’s important to keep that Billingham plant open and running. 

“You feel way more vulnerable to what happens there, you only need one thing to go wrong there.

“It leaves the whole industry a lot more vulnerable, that’s for certain.

“We are becoming more dependent on individual points in the supply chain.”

Tom Bradshaw, deputy president of the National Farmers’ Union, said the announcement was a “further blow” for farmers. 

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He said: “Today’s announcement from CF Fertilisers is a further blow for farmers who are already suffering from incredibly high inflation for fertiliser costs.

“This comes at a time when costs and supply face unprecedented risk.

“This closure is likely to further restrict global supply and we are seeking urgent clarification from CF Fertilisers on the production capabilities of its remaining plant at Billingham.”

The NFU has also warned that the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine has pushed the price of fertiliser up from around £200 per ton to £625.

This deters farmers from growing what is needed to make bread, an issue that is exacerbated by the lack of supply coming from Ukraine and Russia at present.

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