The European Parliament has voted to rein in toxic fertilizers that are high in carcinogene heavy metals. Morocco stands to lose a major market for its high in cadmium fertilizer products, which it exports also from occupied Western Sahara.
Morocco is the biggest exporter of rock phosphates in the world. Most of its phosphate rock and fertilizer products are exported from Morocco proper, but some is also exported from the territory of Western Sahara, which it holds under foreign occupation. The latest cargo of phosphate rock illegally exported from occupied Western Sahara to the EU, arrived on 8 October 2016 to Lithuania.
The EU Member States, however, still have to vote on the matter, and they seem unable to agree. On one side are those that argue for the health of consumers, and on the other those who argue for the protection of the agriculture and fertilizer industries.
Spain's Minister for Agriculture, Isabel García Tejerina, announced on 21 February 2018 that Spain will oppose the proposal, out of consideration to the Spanish farmers and fertilizer producers. Tejerina, having a professional background in the fertilizer sector, argued that the political opponents in Spain showed "disinterest" to the farmers.
"The Spanish market should be able to use phosphorous proceeding from the African phosphate rock. Too strict cadmium limits would exclude us from the market of phosphate fertilizers", stated the minister, underlining that France and the UK share Spain's concern.
"It is a highly toxic product that can have serious and irreversible effects on people's health", said one opposition MP.
From what WSRW understands, Germany and the Scandinavian countries favour low cadmium-levels due to the important health concerns. Sources close to the EU Council state that also Poland is negative to the new regulation.
However, until the regulation has passed the Council of Ministers, it will not be implemented. And for now, the process seems to be stuck.
Morocco’s state-owned phosphate company OCP has been very negative to the EU's suggested regulation on the poison. Phosphate rock from North Africa is high in cadmium. The proposed regulation would thus over time result in the nullification of OCP’s sales figure to the EU, which it puts at 34%.
OCP thus unleashed an intense counter-lobby, arguing that the Commission should in fact consider raising the allowed cadmium rate to 80 mg/kg. OCP has engaged the law firm Dechert LLP and the PR group Edelman, to lobby European Parliamentarians to convince them to vote against the proposed cadmium regulation.
Large changes have taken place over the last years in the imports from occupied Western Sahara. Previously large importers in Europe and Latin America have stopped purchasing, the single largest importing country Canada stops in 2018, a decision on possible stop to the US will be made in mid-2018. One of the largest importing countries of the illegally exported rock from Western Sahara is today New Zealand, where the accumulation of cadmium in the soils have been a main political debate for years.
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Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the three different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Leading activists from Western Sahara are condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to a mass protest in 2010 denouncing the Saharawi people’s social and economic marginalization in their occupied land; the Gdeim Izik protest camp.
At COP22, beware of what you read about Morocco’s renewable energy efforts. An increasing part of the projects take place in the occupied territory of Western Sahara and is used for mineral plunder, new WSRW report documents.