Plant biostimulants can help prevent the Ukraine crisis from creating a secondary food security crisis
Because plant biostimulants contribute to climate-smart agriculture and nutrient use efficiency, they can be important tools to help alleviate the impacts of the Ukraine crisis on the food chain and avert a secondary food crisis, both in Ukraine and across Europe. Furthermore, they simultaneously contribute to the objectives in the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy. Peer-reviewed literature and manufacturer trials indicate that plant biostimulants can increase nutrient use efficiency by 5-10% or more under real-world conditions, while Europe is predicted to face a shortfall of 9% or more in its supply of nitrogen fertilisers this year. If only about 25% of EU crops were treated with nutrient-optimising plant biostimulants, that would translate into a savings of 138,750 tonnes of N and about 238 million euros.
Many of EBIC’s members manufacture other fertilising products besides plant biostimulants, so our concrete suggestions below for how the European Union can improve the situation take an integrated view of ensuring a smooth supply of all fertilising products to EU farmers that avoids shortages and artificially high prices. We have prioritised this list in the order of ease of application and by which measures would have the greatest benefit for growers and could applied quickly:
• Extend the transition period foreseen in Article 52 of Regulation (EU) 2019/1009 by at least 12 months to ease bottlenecks in the supply of fertilising products through the 2023 spring planting. This would allow products that meet the requirements of Regulation (EC) 2003/2003 to continue to be placed on the market alongside products that meet the requirements of Regulation (EU) 2019/1009 until the worst of the crisis has passed. This would avoid a price spike if a large number of product dossiers are not ready for products to be placed on the market under new rules. To avoid triggering additional supply disruptions, national market surveillance authorities should also be mindful that companies are doing their best to comply with new rules under difficult conditions.
• Mutual recognition should be strengthened for all fertilising products (including plant biostimulants). If a producer has not received any additional requirements within 30 days from the target market’s authorities, it should automatically be allowed to place its product on the national market in question. The burden of proof should be on Member States to demonstrate that such fertilising products are unsafe if they want to remove them from their national markets.
• Offer temporary “emergency authorisations” to plant biostimulants that improve nutrient use efficiency, including microbial plant biostimulants that are not in the current lists of Component Material Category 7 (microorganisms).
• Temporarily allow (we suggest twelve months to cover the 2023 spring planting season) importations of fertilising products and intermediate materials that are not REACH registered when those substances are identical to REACH-registered substances already available on the EU market. This waiver would allow EU fertilising product manufacturers to pivot to suppliers in the United States, India, and other countries until the crisis eases.
• Last but not least, plant biostimulants should be included among the inputs that the EU and Ukrainian government strive to make available to Ukrainian farmers.
Read our position paper on how plant biostimulants can alleviate a secondary food security crisis triggered by the conflict in Ukraine.