Could a new
fertilizer regime spell an end to Germany's role as a key global exporter of
Germany is one of
the world's top 10 wheat exporters, and it is particularly important in the
market for high-protein milling-grade wheat.
But major market
players have raised concerns that pending fertilizer legislation poses a
"massive threat" to the industry.
Concerns are that
the move could even send German wheat the way of that in neighbour Denmark,
where limits on use of nitrogen fertilizers heralded a slump in grain protein
preparing legislation to enact the European Union nitrates directive, passed by
European Commission in 1991.
legislation has been delayed by years of political horse trading, as regional
governments attempt to protect their farming interests.
federal government is close to pushing through reforms, under mounting pressure
from the EU, as nitrate pollution of groundwater in Germany worsens.
Last year, the
European environment commissioner threatened to take Germany to the European
Union Courts of Justice, if the country failed to comply with the directive.
which has been in draft form since the start of the year, contains many threats
to current farming practices.
|Non-EU German wheat destinations 2013-14|
Iran: 2.4m tonnes
Saudi Arabia: 1.3m tonnes
Sub-Saharan Africa: 0.9m tonnes
Total non-EU exports: 6.5m tonnes
It would, for
instance, restrict the use of high nitrogen fertilizers in the post-harvest
period, as well as setting limits on the total application of nitrogen
fertilizers, and capping the application of phosphorous, another plant
which is expected to come into force later this year, has prompted unease among
industry groups, as the Verein der Getreidehändler der Hamburger Börse (VgD)
the German grain trade body warns of "drastic consequences" for
Germany's high protein wheat industry.
VgD suggested that
the draft legislation posed "a massive threat to Germany's role as an
important and reliable supplier of quality wheat in the EU and in third
The group warned
that "Germany's position as a reliable supplier of a high proportion of
the world's protein supply in human nutrition is at risk".
and energy group Bayerische Warenvermittlung (BayWa) also raised concerns.
crop farmers the regulation may cause challenges... especially for the production of quality milling wheat - a top
product for German agri exports," BayWa told Agrimoney.com.
agricultural group Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) told Agrimoney.com that it was
"concerned about the potential impact of this regulation on the production
of high quality German milling wheat".
Indeed, a report
issued a month ago, but only recently made public, ADM's German trading arm,
formerly known as Toepfer, said that "even if the basic principle of
protecting natural resources such as soil and groundwater is undoubtedly to be
welcomed, the current form of the draft regulation must be viewed with a highly
threaten the role of Germany being one of the most important suppliers of
milling wheat in the world."
It cited the Danish
example, which imposed limits on fertilizer use some 20 years ago, in stating
that the concern that lower yields and protein content have "not been
simply plucked out of thin air".
The Danish measure
"resulted in a continual fall in the protein content of wheat from 12.0%
in 1992 to only 8.4% in 2014".
While the Danish
limits on fertilizer use are more severe than those planned by Berlin,
"the example nevertheless shows that a remarkable decrease in protein
values would occur in Germany, too, if the current draft would indeed be
adopted", ADM Germany said.
In comments made
last year to the Danish Newspaper Jyllands-Posten, the Danish Agriculture and
Food Council ascribed the decline in quality directly to the fertilizer
rules mean that we can't give the grain the amount of fertilizer that the
plants actually need.
in a gradual depletion of the ground's nitrogen reserves, thus impoverishing the
consequence, the quality gets lower and lower," a spokesman said.
Threat to German supply
ADM Germany added
in its report that "it is to be feared that Germany, as a major global
grain exporter, would no longer be able to meet the specified quality
requirements if the fertilizer regulation was to be adopted in its current
It may no longer
even be possible to meet domestic requirements for high-quality wheat, the
It recommended some
loopholes for farmers, such as permitting fertilizer reapplications when
weather conditions mean that nutrients will be largely absorbed by crops.
concessions, there is the threat that Germany, "a reliable supplier of
quality wheat for human consumption in the world would lose massively in