Furthermore, in Europe the price of gas, the main raw material for nitrogen fertilizers, is currently one of the highest in the world with the market dominated by a small number of key suppliers. In some countries outside the EU-27 dual pricing policies also favour local fertilizer producers, often with less strict emission standards, giving them an unfair competitive advantage.
It also does not help the competitiveness of the European fertilizer industry that from 2013 it will face significant carbon charges under the EU's Emission Trading Scheme (ETS III) while operating in a global and very competitive marketplace. Without a strong European fertilizer industry, our farmers will be increasingly dependent on the production and pricing policies of countries outside Europe's control.
Nitrogen fertilizers are a key ingredient for a sustainable farming sector for the decades to come. They are applied to more than 135 hectares of farmland in Europe.
Europe's farmers rely on high quality fertilizers to sustain their operations. European fertilizer producers actively encourage efficient fertilizer use among farmers to control costs.
Fertilizers provide the right mix of nutrients to turn our crops into small biological power plants. The boost provided by fertilizers enables plants to grow more foliage and use the power of the sun to capture more CO2 and store more energy.
The power of the sun combines with the nutrients fertilizers provide to enable plants to store more energy. This increases the nutritional value of food and feed products, as well as the efficiency of bio-energy crops.
The power of the sun combines with the nutrients fertilizers provide to enable plants to store more energy. This increases the nutritional value of food and feed products, as well as the efficiency of bio-energy crops. The development of Europe's bio-energy sector is an important feature in its low carbon strategy. Bio-energy crops are today grown on approximately 4 million hectares, mostly on previously idle or set-aside land. First generation biofuels (cereals, oil seeds, etc.) are expected to continue to dominate the market over the next decade, with the grain used for bio-ethanol production anticipated to increase three times up to 2025.
However, indirect land-use changes resulting from the expansion of biofuel production can create large increases in greenhouse gas emissions. The inclusion of these in the EC's biofuels sustainability criteria may limit biofuel growth in the short term.
Arable land is scarce and the demand forfood increases by the day as the world'spopulation grows. Increasing the productivityof existing farmland therefore leaves moreroom for forest and other natural habitats.
As well as releasing quantities of greenhouse gas,increasing land for agriculture by clearing untouched areas and deforestation destroys ecologically aluable natural habitats and biodiversity. It also often has a negative impact on the natural water cycle, resulting in a greater likelihood of flooding or drought. Fertilizers make land use more efficient by reducing the need to transform forests or other natural environments into farmland.
The potential for growth in crop yields in Europe is such that the existing farmed area can meet our future food needs. Over the past 25 years, increasing farm efficiency in Europe has allowed its forests to grow over an area offive times the size of Belgium.