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Safe and effective fertilisers on the EU market



Regulation (EC) No 2003/2003 relating to fertilisers


  • It brings into one piece of legislation all the European Union rules that apply to fertilisers — chemical compounds that provide nutrients to plants.
  • It ensures that these highly technical requirements are implemented uniformly throughout the EU.


  • The regulation only applies to mineral fertilisers consisting of one or more plant nutrients. Other fertilisers are governed by EU countries’ national legislation.
  • In its Annex I, the regulation lists fertiliser types according to their specific characteristics. Once a fertiliser meets this type designation it may bear the letters ‘EC’. The fertiliser may then be sold and used throughout the EU. This EC designation guarantees farmers that the fertilisers contain a minimum nutrient content and are safe to use.
  • For a new type designation to be listed in the Annex I to the regulation, the manufacturer of a fertiliser corresponding to that type designation must lodge a request with a national competent authority. This request is forwarded to the European Commission, which consults the other EU countries and decides to accept or reject the application based on the advice of a committee set up by the regulation.
  • To achieve the EC status, a fertiliser must provide nutrients effectively, not harm human, animal or plant health or the environment and demonstrate it has been subject to the relevant sampling, analysis and test methods.
  • Manufacturers must keep records that make it possible to trace a fertiliser while it is on the market and for a further 2 years thereafter.
  • Certain basic information, such as the manufacturer’s contact details and the fertiliser’s main properties, must appear on packages, labelling and accompanying documents.
  • Specific rules apply to primary* and secondary* inorganic nutrient fertilisers, to inorganic* micro-nutrient* fertilisers and to ammonium nitrate fertilisers of high nitrogen content.
  • Certain product types have been added for liming materials (materials that neutralise acid soils) and agronomic fertiliser additives, as well as inhibitors (such as nitrogen inhibitors — materials that slow down or prevent nitrification*).


It has applied since 11 December 2003 with the exception of Articles 8 and 26(3) which relate to traceability aspects and which have applied since 11 June 2005.


In March 2016, the Commission adopted a proposal which aims to simplify the existing legislation, to improve the way the EU’s fertiliser market works and to extend the rules to non-harmonised products, i.e. those fertilisers governed by EU countries’ national laws. To prepare for this initiative, the Commission has conducted various studies into areas such as fertiliser ingredients and the science of plant bio-stimulants.

For more information, see:


Primary nutrient: one containing the elements nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium only.

Secondary nutrient: one containing the elements calcium, magnesium, sodium and sulphur.

Inorganic fertiliser: a fertiliser in which the declared nutrients are in the form of minerals obtained by extraction or by physical and/or chemical industrial processes.

Micro-nutrients: containing the elements boron, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc, essential for plant growth in quantities that are small compared with those of primary and secondary nutrients.

Nitrification: a natural process in the environment in which specialised bacteria convert ammonia in the soil into nitrites and nitrates.


Regulation (EC) No 2003/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 October 2003 relating to fertilisers (OJ L 304, 21.11.2003, pp. 1-194)

Successive amendments to Regulation (EC) No 2003/2003 have been incorporated into the basic text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

last update 12.09.2016