This week’s explosion in Beirut, seemingly through the accidental detonation of a warehouse full of Ammonium Nitrate fertiliser, is a tragedy for those killed and injured, their families and those who have lost homes and property.
The TV images of the awful explosion, plus the wrecked portside grain terminal standing in a devasted landscape in its aftermath, are a sobering reminder of the destructive potential of this everyday farm input.
The incident also underlines the importance of safe, responsible AN storage and handling. While its UK manufacturing and distribution have been tightly regulated for decades, the more recent Fertiliser Industry Assurance Scheme (FIAS) and BASIS FACTS training have ensured this responsibility is cascaded to farm level.
But there can be no room for complacency. The Beirut incident is likely to cause domestic regulators to re-examine operating procedures in this country and tighten controls to ensure such an incident cannot happen here.
All involved in the supply of AN fertilisers for arable crops and grassland need to play their part, by double checking their own company procedures and customer awareness, and by participating in the current consultations over the revision and updating of FIAS.