Farmers and their advisers are urged to take particular care over the safe and secure storage of fertilisers this year, as the rising cost of nitrogen-based fertiliser could encourage criminal activity.
The warning is issued by AIC Services, which manages the Fertiliser Industry Assurance Scheme (FIAS). The scheme’s technical manager, Roberta Reeve, comments: “While light-hearted comments on social media about selling excess stock of fertiliser may appear harmless, this may draw attention of the situation to criminals. There is a risk of nitrogen-based fertilisers being used for illegitimate purposes, and anyone handling or storing these products has a responsibility to provide secure storage and to remain vigilant to potential theft.”
Equally, farmers tempted to resell existing or surplus fertiliser should be aware that this must be done through the proper channels – a return to the original supplier for refund or resale. Ms Reeve stresses that it is illegal to sell ammonium nitrate without the correct documentation, and fertilisers should not be advertised on auction sites, local trade magazines or social media.
Similarly, Mrs Reeve advises farmers not to buy fertiliser unless the source is known, and the correct documentation is available. “Sellers should be FIAS approved, and this can be checked on the Assurance Scheme website or through a FACTS adviser. Everyone in the industry should be alert to the potential misuse and mis-sale of nitrogen-based fertiliser by reporting suspicious activity or sales to the police.”
Those farmers carrying increased fertiliser stocks through the winter period are advised to remind themselves of the National Counter Terrorism Security Office’s five point plan for secure storage: wherever possible use a FIAS approved supplier; wherever possible keep product in a secure area such as a building or sheeted, away from public view; carry out regular stock checks and report any loss to the police immediately; avoid leaving fertiliser in a field overnight and never in a field for a long period of time; and remember it is illegal to sell ammonium nitrate without the correct documentation.
“As high global gas prices push up the cost of nitrogen-based fertilisers, we are aware that some farmers are facing difficult decisions about crop nutrition plans this winter and next spring,” says Ms Reeve. “This is of particular concern where farmers don’t have sufficient stock or orders in the pipeline to cover their needs, since the disruption to the fertiliser supply chain could continue into spring 2022.”
But for the avoidance of doubt, farmers seeing to procure or sell fertilisers farmers should seek advice from a FACTS qualified adviser, to ensure they stay on the right side of the law, she concludes.