tractor spraying crops in field

Talks to take the CF Fertilisers site in Ince, Cheshire into British ownership have collapsed

Industry sources have warned the future of food security has been put in peril after talks to take the CF Fertilisers site in Cheshire into British ownership collapsed.

Plans to close the site, in Ince, where operations have been on hold since last September, were announced in June. A consultation is currently underway with unions and staff.

The UK Nitrogen consortium, backed by private equity investor Endless LLP, is understood to have held protracted talks with the American owners, who earlier this year announced plans to focus its UK manufacturing operations exclusively at its Billingham manufacturing facility in Teesside.

Sources said the failure to close out the deal for the 153-acre site meant the future of fertiliser production, as well as its vital role in production of CO2 supplies, would continue to come down to a one-site, foreign-owned monopoly.

While Ince stopped oprations in September, with CF blaming the soaring cost of gas prices, Billingham has remained open after the government brokered a deal between industry and CF Industries to ensure its continued funding. The company also received a multimillion-pound subsidy from the taxpayer.

“In the long term there’s a very big question about food security in the UK and the role that the Billingham plant will play for the future of net zero and carbon capture,” said a source.

The NFU told The Telegraph, which first reported the collapse of the deal this weekend, that the plant’s closure would “further restrict global supply” of fertiliser. The British Meat Processors Association warned it left Britain’s food supply chain “vulnerable”.

Last month, parliament’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee called on the government to address the UK’s rising fertiliser costs and possible future shortages of CO2, warning the closure of the plant would lead to rising food prices and shortages of CO2”.

A spokesman for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “The government believes this is an issue for the market to solve.”