Two fertiliser companies have suspended sales and use of
DCD treatment which has been used by the dairy industry to
reduce nitrate leaching into waterways and greenhouse gas
emissions. Photo from ODT Files.
The New Zealand dollar weakened yesterday as markets
awaited the reaction in Asia to the discovery of dicyandiamide
(DCD) residue in milk.
Fertiliser companies Ravensdown and Ballance Agri-Nutrients
have voluntarily suspended sales and use of DCD treatment on
farmland until further notice.
DCD is a nitrification inhibitor used by the dairy industry
to reduce nitrate leaching into waterways and greenhouse gas
ANZ senior trader Alex Sinton said New Zealand officials had
''probably done everything behind the scenes'' and ''smoothed
things with the regulators''.
''It's probably not such a big story even though people are
arguing about whether it led the kiwi lower.''
New Zealand's trading partners had been briefed and the
Ministry of Primary Industries was working with primary
producers to manage potential concerns for markets and
As no internationally set standard existed for DCD residues
in food, because it had not been considered to have any
impact on food safety, the detectable presence could be
unacceptable to consumers and international markets, even in
the small amounts found in recent testing, ministry deputy
director, general standards, Carol Barnao said.
''Food regulators around the world are reflecting market
demands with increasingly rigorous testing and, in some
countries, there is zero tolerance to detected residues
outside agreed standards,'' she said.
The ministry had supported DCD's development to address
environmental issues. Its application directly on to farm
land was ''one of the more promising ways'' of reducing
nitrate leaching to waterways and greenhouse gas emissions
from farming, particularly dairying, as well as promoting
pasture growth, she said.
The ministry would work with other organisations to
investigate what the suspension meant in terms of the future
use of DCD in farming.
Federated Farmers food safety spokesman Dr William Rolleston
said the issue needed to be kept in perspective, as DCD-based
nitrification inhibitors had been applied on about 500 dairy
farms, out of about 12,000. However, a detectable level
presented a trade risk, no matter how small. Extensive
testing had found no traces of DCD in processed dairy
products like cheese or butter.
''There will be a financial cost but that is secondary to
maintaining our reputation, given the bulk majority of farms
have not used DCD-based nitrification inhibitors,'' Dr
The inhibitors arose out of the considerable pressure to seek
solutions to diffuse nitrogen, he said.
Otago Regional Council chairman Stephen Woodhead said the
council was disappointed DCD had to be withdrawn as it was
one of the tools available to manage nitrate leaching.
He supported the companies' voluntary withdrawals of the
products, saying the integrity of New Zealand's farming
systems and the safe, healthy food the country produced was
''vitally important''. From the council's water plan
perspective, the 6A panel was still working through its
decision and Cr Woodhead said he would suggest no change as a
result of the DCD decision.
Ravensdown chief executive Greg Campbell said it was
reassuring both the ministry and the company's own
peer-reviewed research showed there were no food safety
issues with DCD, or Ravensdown's s eco-n product which
Last year, organisations like the US Food and Drug
Administration added DCD to a list of substances to test for.
That, combined with increasingly sophisticated scanning
technology, now presented a possible trade risk.
While the news was disappointing for the 500 customers who
used eco-n, the potential risk demanded ''decisive and
Sales of eco-n made up about 1% of Ravensdown's annual
revenues, he said.
Ballance Agri-Nutrients research and development manager
Warwick Catto said Ballance had not sold its nitrification
inhibitor product DCn since July last year and had not
promoted its use on pastures since late 2010. Ballance ceased
sales of DCn in early spring to review the product and its
DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle urged Ravensdown,
Ballance, government authorities and dairy companies to work
on pragmatic solutions that would enable the product to be
back on the market.
''We support this proactive approach to managing the trade
risk but this is a very useful tool for farmers in terms of
managing their nutrient loss on farm, so we'd like to see
solutions worked on as a priority,'' he said.
The Green Party said nitrification inhibitors were ''never
the magic bullet'' to reduce nitrate leaching. Fish and Game
chief executive Bryce Johnson said regional councils must not
lower ''pollution'' targets in the absence of the products.
Instead, the onus should be put on farmers to adhere to
environmental guidelines and reduce the impact by other
means, he said.