The Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) is urging farmers to take measures to prevent fertiliser theft and to follow safe handling and secure storage advice.

The AIC said nitrogen-based fertilisers are at risk of being used in criminal activities such as terrorism, posing a “serious threat to the public if products were to fall into the wrong hands”.

Anyone handling these products has a responsibility to store them securely and be vigilant against safety risks, the AIC said.

AIC Services technical manager, Roberta Reeve, said: “As farmers gear up for what may prove to be a hectic spring application window because of poor weather, it’s vital that they don’t forget their responsibility to keep fertilisers safe and secure at all times.

“By following the simple guidance on the storing and handling of fertiliser, farmers and growers will help to deter thieves and protect the public and the environment from harm.”

AIC’s Fertiliser Industry Assurance Scheme (FIAS) provides an assurance system to ensure that the security, safety and traceability of fertilisers meet the safety requirements of the government and industry.

Fertiliser safety

AIC advice relating to fertiliser safety is supported by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the National Farmers Union (NFU).

The AIC said, wherever possible, farmers should use an FIAS-approved fertiliser supplier.

Other AIC recommendations relating to safe storage include:

  • Wherever possible, keep fertiliser in a secure place away from public view, such as a locked building or sheeted area;
  • Carry out regular stock checks and report any loss to the police immediately by calling 101;
  • Avoid leaving fertiliser in a field overnight, and never leave fertiliser in a field for a longer period of time.

The AIC highlighted that it is illegal to resell ammonium nitrate fertiliser without the correct documentation.

Therefore, farmers are encouraged to report any suspicious sales activity to the police by calling 101, and to the home office via its web reporting tool.

“Never advertise fertiliser for resale on auction sites, local and trade magazines, or social media,” AIC said.

“In particular, social media posts advertising surplus fertiliser stock for sale with pictures of product and storage locations significantly heighten a farm’s security risk and attract the unwanted attention of criminals.”

Where crop plans change and existing stocks of nitrogen-based fertilisers held on farm are no longer needed, AIC said products can be safely resold by contacting the original supplier and arranging the return and refund.