Update 25 July 2019
Ballance apparently taking injunction application against Quin Environmentals to full trial
The latest I have heard is that Ballance management have decided to throw a lot more of their farmer shareholders’ money towards proceeding to a full High Court trial with their attempt to get an injunction to stop Quin Environmentals (NZ) Ltd describing its Quinfert Algerian RPR as an ‘RPR’. No matter that it is rated as a ‘Highly’ Reactive Phosphate Rock by international expects and organisations. They think they can extinguish opposition start-ups by stumping up with hundreds of thousands of dollars to enforce reliance on their pet ‘Fertmark’ citric solubility test, a test that is used nowhere else in the world. So what do the farmer members of the board have to say about this? Apparently, a big fat nothing. Obviously, no one can expect them to be fertiliser effectiveness experts. That is one of the reasons that the citric P content of super is no longer included in advertising or price lists any more, when it used to be compulsory. I wonder whether any of the farmer members of the board have even bothered to talk to any overseas experts about how to determine whether a particular phosphate rock is an RPR?
The cynical nature of this action is now clear. Compare that to the recent decision by Ravensdown to use Algerian RPR in a 30% blend with Sechura RPR to reduce the cadmium (Cd) concentration in the mixture to below the industry’s already-excessive limit. So much better, but why not just use Algerian RPR and be done with it?
Update 16 April 2019
As we expected, it didn’t take long to get the final wording sorted with the Court. Our undertaking states, slightly abbreviated:
“In advertising (Quinfert Algerian RPR), we will either:
(a) demonstrate that the product meets Fertmark’s definition of an RPR; or
(b) state that Quinfert Algerian RPR has not yet been shown to meet the Fertmark 30-minute citric acid test and consequently is not an ‘RPR’ as defined in the Fertmark Code.”
Quin Environmentals (NZ) Ltd has absolutely no problem with this undertaking. We have never claimed that its RPR does meet the Fertmark test. We believe we could make it meet it quite easily, but we are simply not going to be coerced to modify what is recognised internationally as one of the very best Reactive Phosphate Rocks (RPRs) on the planet just to meet a very flawed test that ‘passes’ as RPRs mixes of high-cadmium Sechura RPR and manufacturing rocks. So we have withdrawn our more ‘soluble’ (lower dolomite) RPR V2 from the market, and will be just stating (b) above. The keen reader will note that this is more or less identical in meaning to what our current advertising states. As it happened, we did not get one single order for V2, so we think that just about says it all.
Her Honour Judge Fitzgerald also stated that “In the light of the further undertaking ((a) and (b) above), no additional orders are necessary on Ballance’s application for interim relief.”
What does this mean, in layman’s lanquage? It means that Ballance’s attempted injunction to stop Quin Environmentals (NZ) Ltd describing its Quinfert Algerian RPR an ‘RPR’ has totally failed. Ballance shareholders and Board of Directors take note.
Ballance still, as we do as well of course, have the option of taking this matter to a full trial. There is no point I can see in our initiating this, but if Ballance do, we absolutely relish the opportunity of bringing to the court scientific evidence regarding exactly what defines an RPR from the world’s top RPR experts (brought to NZ by Quin Environmentals). There will be no hiding behind behind an obsolete test (used nowhere else in the world to our knowledge) this time.
Watch this space……
Update 13 April 2019
At the Interlocutory Hearing on February 26th, in which counsel for both sides made their verbal submissions to the Court, Her Honour Judge Fitzgerald suggested a solution, which was that Quin Environmentals (NZ) Ltd would continue to describe its product as an RPR, but would make clear that it may not pass the Fertmark 30-minute citric solubility test, and therefore Fertmark’s definition of an RPR. The Judge ruled that this would not prevent Quin Environmentals presenting international evidence describing its product as an RPR, or from publishing its reasons for criticising the Fertmark test. Quin Environmentals immediately accepted this proposal, but Ballance opposed it. Their opposition failed.
In the subsequent period, while the exact wording was being formulated, Quin Environmentals was free to continue advertising its Quinfert RPR, as long as it took heed of the Court’s ruling. Ballance took issue with Quin Environmentals’ advert in the Rural News of April 2. Quin Environmentals had already made minor changes to its following advert, which will appear in the Rural News of Monday and has been uploaded on the Latest News of this website for consistency.
On Wednesday last week, subsequent to this revised advert being committed to the Rural News, Her Honour released a very helpful clarifying ‘Note’ , containing specific wording recommended to be used in Quin Environmentals’ advertising. This is very similar to that used in this weeks Rural News and uploaded on the Quinfert website. Quin Environmentals has agreed to adopt the new wording from now on.
Most farmers are now fully aware that the simple reason Quinfert RPR does not always pass the 30-minute solubility test, which is how Fertmark defines an RPR, is because of the natural presence of 7% dolomite. The dolomite preferentially consumes citric acid, leaving less citric acid to dissolve the RPR. This is an artefact. The dolomite has no adverse effect on the field performance of Quinfert Algerian RPR; on the contrary, it increases is liming equivalence! The artificially low result sometimes achieved with RPRs containing dolomite (or lime in the case of Chatham Rise RPR), is one of the main reasons why the Fertmark test is not used in any of the other RPR-using countries in the world, to our knowledge.
Another reason is that the Fertmark test is very easy to manipulate using Sechura RPR. This RPR, which is an effective RPR but very high in cadmium (Cd), just happens to be very soluble in the Fertmark 30-minute test. This again is an artefact. Unfortunately, it allows mixtures of Sechura RPR and non-RPR manufacturing phosphate rocks like those from Morocco or the Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara to pass the test. Amazingly, Fertmark does not require the exact origin and mineralogy of any of the phosphate rocks in products it registers as an RPR to be disclosed. You can however work out approximately how much non-RPR is mixed with Sechura from the actual Cd content and citric solubility of the mix. In our view, Sechura makes up approximately only 50% of the P in these mix products sold as RPR.
The Court’s ruling found that there was no legal requirement for RPRs sold in NZ to be registered with Fertmark, but that farmers needed to know which RPR tests an advertiser was relying on if it quoted a specific solubility in its advertising. This is reasonable. The matter of what can be mixed with Sechura RPR and the product still be called an RPR was not discussed, as the issues were restricted to those raised by Ballance in its complaints. Quin Environmentals has however laid a complaint with the Commerce Commission on this and other matters.
Update 21 December 2018
In October 2018, Ballance Agri-Nutrients Ltd (BAN) issued Quin Environmentals (NZ) Ltd, the importer of ‘Quinfert’ Algerian reactive phosphate rock (RPR) with proceedings in the High Court seeking an injunction to prevent the company describing its product as an ‘RPR’.
Quinfert (the fertiliser division of Quin Environmentals) is of course fighting the injunction. No injunction has made granted. A half-day hearing in the Auckland High-Court has been set down for 26th February 2019. The case essentially revolves around what an RPR actually is – a specific phosphate mineral that has very well defined mineralogical and crystalline characteristics (the Quinfert position) , or an unexplained ‘thing’ that can only be assessed by a simple laboratory solubility test – the specifics of which are used nowhere else in the world – that makes no allowances for modern knowledge about RPRs, and the limitations of particular laboratory tests when certain accessory minerals are present.
Original Press Release
QE Managing Director Dr Bert Quin, a former MAF Chief Scientist for Soil Fertility and long-time promoter of the lower costs and environmental benefits for New Zealand farmers, says BAN’s action is a very cynical ploy to try to block competition in New Zealand.
Quin says that the product is accepted internationally as one of the very best RPRs in the world. “In my view, it is the best, which is why I have started importing it” says Quin. “The IFDC in Alabama, the foremost authority on the use of phosphate rocks directly as a fertiliser describe it as a Highly Reactive Phosphate Rock. The FAO (2004) also rank it in the highest reactivity group, along with Sechura (Peru) and Gafsa (Tunisia”.
Quin says that BAN are trying to use an outmoded NZ definition of RPR – the quick-fire 30-minute extraction with 2% citric acid still used by Fertmark, but nowhere else in the world – to block the product being advertised as an RPR” Quin says. “Certainly, as I have said many times, some samples, particularly if they contain more than 5% free dolomite, do not reach the NZ test’s 30% citric solubility minimum. However, this is an artefact of the test itself, and has no effect on the RPR’s effectiveness in the field.” Quin says that this fact is accepted internationally, except apparently in Ballance’s corporate office in Mt Maunganui.
“Fertmark themselves accept that the test is obsolete, and have been waiting for a decade for the industry duopoly to come up with an alternative” says Quin. “Fertmark has no legal standing, but Federated Farmers support it as a form of quality assurance. Unfortunately, the current citric test is like trying to assess the 0-100 km acceleration of a car from looking at its its shape alone; it is just totally inadequate”.
Quin says that Balance’s cynicism is clearly illustrated by the fact that the product Ballance sell under the name “Hi-P” RPR is not even registered with Fertmark , and in fact is not even a true RPR but a blend of Sechura RPR with a phosphate called PB3, known in the industry to be the dried waste slimes from the mining and beneficiation of Boucraa manufacturing rock. “It is extremely misleading to call the mix an RPR”, he says.
To keep the peace, Quin says he will even remove sufficient of the dolomite from the RPR to produce a version of the RPR called ‘V2’, which does meet the test, until a new test is introduced. He says there are several far superior alternatives in use overseas. “However, it is obvious that BAN just want me and RPR gone forever, so they can continue to sell maximum quantities of polluting superphosphate made from Boucraa ‘blood-phosphate’ from the occupied Western Sahara, and to hell with anyone else. Is this what their farmer shareholders want and deserve? I don’t think so.”