EU agrees on maximum cadmium level in fertilisers

BRUSSELS/MOSCOW (Reuters) - The European Union on Tuesday agreed on a cap for cadmium levels in fertilisers in a move welcomed by Russia’s Phosagro but greeted with some scepticism by a European industry lobby.

Cadmium is present in phosphate deposits in many countries, including in northwestern Africa, and the ore from these deposits is used to produce mineral fertilisers.

Tuesday’s preliminary decision, which has yet to receive final approval from the European Parliament and the bloc’s member states, sets a limit of 60 milligrams of cadmium per kilogram of fertilizer in a move the EU’s legislative said would promote organic fertilisers.

“The agreed text introduces limits for heavy metals, such as cadmium, in phosphate fertilisers to reduce health and environmental risks,” the European Parliament said in a statement, adding that the new limit would take effect three years after the new law is enacted.

Phosagro and Norwegian fertilizer maker Yara are potential winners, along with producers in South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, while rivals from Morocco and Tunisia stand to lose out because their products contain more cadmium, industry sources said.

The chief executive of Phosagro, Andrey Guryev, welcomed the decision, saying: “We will continue to sell our premium-quality products, which are well below the limits introduced.”

The European Parliament statement said that the EU imports more than 6 million tonnes of phosphate rock a year but could recover much more through recycling. It said that only 5 percent of waste organic material is being re-used as fertilizer in the bloc.

An EU mineral fertilizer industry lobby group broadly welcomed the preliminary agreement but said the 60 mg/kg limit was too harsh.

“We ... regret that the level of nutrients in mineral fertilisers was reduced,” Fertilizers Europe also said.

Reporting by Polina Devitt and Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by David Goodman