The new fertiliser regulation – consequences for farmers

Already in 2022, the primary food production sector has to meet future policy changes: most importantly the new EU Fertilising Product Regulation functionality specifications. Most farmers are not aware of the new policy content of the EU Circular Economy Fertilising Products Regulation (EU 2019/1009) that has been recently approved on June 5, 2019, despite its importance and the significant consequences for farmers in short term.

Gaps in the existing Fertiliser Regulation

The conditions for making fertilisers available on the internal market have been partially harmonised through Regulation (EC) No 2003/2003  of the European Parliament and of the Council, which almost exclusively covers fertilisers from mined or chemically produced, inorganic materials.

However, nearly half of the fertilisers on the EU market are currently not covered by the existing legislation. Increasing quantities of fertilising products on the EU market are produced from organic waste streams, or are a combination of organic and inorganic materials, which are not covered by the existing EU Regulation. Other products relevant as inputs for agriculture, such as soil improvers and growing media, are also not within the scope of Regulation (EC) No 2003/2003, that is only regulating the mineral fertilizers and in current form is not applicable for recovered fertiliser products.

Furthermore, it is recognised that the current provisions of the Regulation (EC) No 2003/2003 do not offer a clear framework to address new concerns, such as environmental and material safety concerns in inorganic fertilisers. Cadmium, Uranium and other potential toxic elements are constituents of phosphorites, meaning mined mineral phosphate fertilizers contain potential toxic elements in relation to the original deposit. Contaminants in EU fertilising products, such as cadmium, could pose a risk to human, animal or plant health, to safety or to the environment as they accumulate in the environment and enter the food chain.

New harmonized Fertiliser Regulation

The European Commission envisages a replacement of the currently valid Regulation (EC) No 2003/2003, expanding its scope to secondary raw material based, i.e. recovered and bio-based fertilising products. A new EU Fertilising Products Regulation (EU) 2019/1009 was approved by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union on 5 June 2019.

The new (EU) 1009/2019 Regulation is repealing (EC) No 2003/2003 by July 16, 2022.

The new (EU) 1009/2019 Regulation shall enter into force on the twentieth day following that of its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. This Regulation shall apply from 16 July 2022 and shall be binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States. The Regulation (EC) No 2003/2003 will be replaced by the new Regulation by July 16, 2022.

The existing EU rules do not affect the so-called ‘national fertilisers’ placed on the market of the Member States in accordance with national legislation. Some Member States have very detailed national rules whereas others do not. Producers can choose to market a fertiliser as ‘EC fertiliser’ or as ‘national fertilisers'.

The key elements of the new rules are:

  • Opening the Single Market for bio-based fertilisers: The agreement on the Fertilising Products Regulation will open the market for new and innovative organic fertilisers by defining the conditions under which these can access the EU Single Market.
  • Rules on safety and quality: The new Regulation will provide strict rules on safety, quality and labelling requirements for all fertilisers to be traded freely across the EU. Producers will need to demonstrate that their products meet those requirements before affixing the CE mark.
  • EU fertilising products divided into different product function categories (PFC), which should each be subject to specific safety and quality requirements adapted to their different intended uses.
  • Component materials for EU fertilising products divided into different categories, which should each be subject to specific process requirements and control mechanisms. It should be possible to make available on the market an EU fertilising product composed of several component materials from various component material categories, where each material complies with the requirements of the category to which the material belongs.
  • Introducing new limit values for contaminants in fertilisers.
Type of fertiliser Maximum Cadmium limit
Organic fertilisers, inorganic soil improver and other bio-fertilisers 1.5 mg/kg dry matter
Organic soil improver and liming materials 2 mg/kg dry matter
Inorganic macronutrient and organo-mineral fertilisers less than <5% P2O5 content by mass 3 mg/kg dry matter
Inorganic macronutrient and organo-mineral fertilisers above >5% P2O5 content by mass (‘phosphate  fertiliser’). 60 mg/kg phosphorus pentoxide (P2O5)
Low cadmium content organo-mineral fertilisers 20 mg/kg phosphorus pentoxide (P2O5)
Inorganic micronutrient fertilisers 200 mg/ kg total micronutrient content
  • Contrary to most other product harmonisation measures in Union law, Regulation (EC) No 2003/2003 does not prevent non-harmonised fertilisers from being made available on the internal market in accordance with national law.
    • Compliance with harmonised rules should therefore remain optional, and should be required only for products, intended to provide plants with nutrient or improve plants’ nutrition efficiency, which are CE marked when made available on the market. This Regulation should therefore not apply to products which are not CE marked when made available on the market.

Advantages of new regulations:

  • Making it easier for producers of organic and recovered fertilisers to sell with harmonized quality standards for all types of fertilizing material that can be traded across the European Union.
  • More choice for farmers, reduced health and environmental risks for consumers.
  • The maximum Cadmium limit of <1,5 mg/kg to apply in organic fertiliser and other bio-fertiliser cases will fully guarantee a high level of soil protection and reduce health and environmental risks, while allowing producers to adapt their manufacturing process to comply with the new limits.
  • The “Low cadmium content" <20mg/kg organo-mineral fertiliser cases providing improved level of soil protection and reduce health and environmental risks versus the high Cadmium content mineral fertilisers.
  • Boosting the use of organic and bio/waste-based fertilisers.
  • Promotes increased use of recycled materials for producing fertilisers, thus helping to develop the circular economy, while reducing dependence on imported nutrients.
  • Eases market access for innovative, organic fertilisers, which would give farmers and consumers a wider choice and promote green innovation.
  • Establishes EU-wide quality, safety and environmental criteria for “EU” fertilisers.
  • Increasing the consumer's confidence by guaranteeing the safety of fertilisers with regard to human health and the environment (in particular concerning the toxic elements, organic contaminants).
  • Since distributors and importers are close to the market place, they should be involved in market surveillance tasks carried out by competent national authorities.
  • Full harmonisation of the internal market would remove all costs related to mutual recognition and/or divergence of national rules, as well as ensure a uniform level of protection of human health and environment.