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The European Union (EU) lays down rules relating to the placing of fertilisers on the market, i.e. the conditions to meet in order to use the title EC fertilisers, as well as the provisions regarding their labelling and packaging.


Regulation (EC) No 2003/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 October 2003 relating to fertilisers [See Amending Act(s)].


This regulation was adopted in order to gather all rules applying to fertilisers into a single piece of legislation and to ensure the uniform application of a package of very technical provisions. It only applies to mineral fertilisers made up of one or more plant nutrients (or fertilising elements).

General provisions

All types of fertiliser which appear in Annex I and comply with the provisions of the regulation may bear the words EC fertiliser. The list of the various types of fertilisers authorised on the European market may be extended. In order to be listed, the manufacturer must apply to the competent authority in their country and constitute a technical file on the characteristics of the fertiliser. Applications are then sent to the Commission which accepts or rejects the manufacturer's application.

All fertilisers bearing the words EC fertiliser may circulate freely on the European market. Member States may not prohibit or limit their placing on the market unless they consider that the fertiliser in question represents a danger for health or a risk to the environment. In such cases, the product is temporarily withdrawn from the market until a study is carried out at European level to ascertain whether the risk is well founded.

Minimum requirements

A type of fertiliser shall only bear the words EC Fertiliser if:

  • it has no adverse effect on the health of humans, animals, plants or the environment under normal conditions of use;
  • it is effective;
  • relevant sampling and analysis methods are being provided.

Annex I of the Regulation, amended in 2013, also establishes minimum nutrient content required for each type of fertiliser (nitrogen content, phosphorus content, etc.).

Rules regarding packaging and labelling of fertilisers

The Regulation lays down a certain number of compulsory statements which must appear on the packaging and labels of fertilisers. In particular, these include the marking EC Fertiliser, details relating to the description of nutrients or micro-nutrients, information about the manufacturer and, if applicable, details of blends. Some optional information is also recommended, such as specific directions for the use, storage and handling of the fertiliser.

The Regulation harmonises the rules on labelling and packaging in the EU. These rules concern, inter alia, the marking of nutrient content. Quantities of substances may be indicated in several ways. For example, phosphate content may be indicated in elemental form or in oxide form.

Specific provisions

The Regulation sets out detailed technical provisions regarding the scope, declaration, identification and packaging of four types of fertiliser:

  • main inorganic nutrient fertilisers: these are the main fertilising elements supplied in substantial quantities for plant growth, i.e. nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium;
  • secondary inorganic nutrient fertilisers: these are calcium, magnesium, sodium and sulphur;
  • inorganic micro-nutrient fertilisers: these contain elements required in small quantities such as boron, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, etc.;
  • ammonium nitrate fertilisers of high nitrogen content: given the dangerous nature of this type of fertiliser, the Regulation lays down additional measures such as a detonability test described in Annex III to the Regulation.


Member States may carry out official controls to verify compliance of fertilisers bearing the words EC fertiliser with the provisions of the Regulation. These control measures are to be carried out by designated laboratories in each Member State in accordance with a uniform procedure set out in the Annexes to the Regulation.

For inspection purposes, manufacturers must keep records of the origin of EC fertilisers for as long as they are being supplied to the market.

Member States determine the rules on penalties applicable to infringements of the provisions of the Regulation.

The Commission shall be assisted in implementing the Regulation and making adaptations to the Annexes by a committee composed of representatives of the Member States.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 2003/2003

11.12.2003(11.6.2005 for Articles 8 and 26)


OJ L 304, 21.11.2003


Decision 2006/348/EC [Official Journal L 129 of 17.5.2006].

This derogation applies to the maximum admissible content of cadmium in fertilisers notified by the Republic of Finland.

Decision 2006/349/EC [Official Journal L 129 of 17.5.2006].

This derogation applies to the maximum admissible content of cadmium in fertilisers notified by the Republic of Austria.

Amending Act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 219/2009



OJ L 87, 31.3.2009

(EU) Regulation No 463/2013



OJ L 134 of 18.5.2013

Successive amendments and corrections to Regulation (EC) No 2003/2003 have been incorporated into the basic text. This consolidated version is for information only.

Last updated: 01.04.2014