I propose to take Questions Nos. 99 and 102 together.
I thank the Deputies for the questions. I am acutely aware of the impact of rising input costs on farmers, family farms and businesses, as highlighted in the Deputies' questions. The very significant rise in fertiliser prices in the past year, particularly in recent months, is concerning. There are a number of factors at play in the market, including energy prices remaining well above January 2021 levels. Increased global demand, especially from the big grain-producing countries, controls of fertiliser exports from large fertiliser producing countries, increased transport costs and EU-imposed tariffs and duties on certain third country imports are all impacting prices here for our farmers.
I have been following the rising fertiliser price issue closely for the past number of months. In October 2021, I tasked Teagasc to lay out a credible roadmap to assist farmers in the short term as well as offering a long-term solution in the move to reduce dependency on chemical fertiliser. I launched the soils, nutrients and fertiliser campaign at Teagasc in Ballyhaise on 26 January last. This is a strategy that can ease the price pressure on farmers and will be good for the environment and for farmers' pockets, particularly in seeking to address the challenge of increased fertiliser prices.
I have also raised the issues highlighted by the Deputes a number of times at European Council level. At the November Agriculture and Fisheries Council, I again raised the increasing challenge faced by farmers due to the rising costs of inputs. I called on the EU Commission to consider seriously all options to ease the pressure on farmers at this time, including the question of whether the imposition of anti-dumping duties on fertiliser imports continues to be appropriate and for this matter to be examined and addressed as a matter of priority.
Following the November meeting, I wrote to the EU Commissioner, Janusz Wojciechowski, requesting that the Commission's assessment of the ongoing appropriateness of anti-dumping duties on fertilisers be completed as soon as possible. The EU Commission responded on 26 January that it is still collecting information to establish the relevant facts. In the meantime, Teagasc will continue to work with farmers through the soils, nutrients and fertiliser campaign to help farmers to adapt to the current fertiliser market and support them to make informed decisions on what is best for their farms.
Teagasc has put together a comprehensive information pack for farmers and their advisers - a compendium of 20 fact sheets - to optimise the use of plant nutrients and to help farmers address the challenge of maintaining their farm outputs in the face of rising fertiliser costs and reduced availability. In addition, a new €1 million initiative by my Department will support the planting of multi-species swards to reduce dependence on fertiliser this year and in future years. A pilot soil sampling programme was introduced at the end of last year, which will provide farmers with comprehensive details of soil health and soil condition on their farms. I hope, as a result of that, to apply an appropriate level of fertiliser or organic manure to reflect the needs of the soil and to maximise growth.
As the Deputies can appreciate, Ireland is a relatively small market in respect of fertiliser sales and their usage compared with many of our EU neighbours. As a result, Irish fertiliser companies are price-takers that are dependent on global fertiliser supply and demand. It is to be hoped we may see a levelling off at least of some of these contributing rising price factors this year. This is not to diminish the pressures being faced by our farmers today. The initiatives I have introduced should support farmers reduce their dependence on fertiliser. I assure this House that both I and my Department will continue to monitor the situation closely. I am examining all options to ease the burden on farmers in the short and long term. There is no doubt this is the real challenge facing farm families this year. I am very much of aware of that and I know the Deputies are keen to ensure it is central to our thinking at the start of the year.