Most firms in the British fertiliser industry of the 19th century were small and combined other activities, such as seed merchants, millers, manufacturers of sulphuric acid and in one case explosives. In the heyday of high farming there was almost no co-operation and no attempt to achieve economy of scale through merger and amalgamation. In 1875 just before the onset of the depression the Chemical Manure Manufacturers’ Association was formed to fix prices and address the challenges posed by proposed Government regulation of what was after all a noxious industry. This story mirrors much of British industry, where implicit (price-fixing) cartels failed and individual firms rejected collaboration in favour of what seems an irrational commitment to a free market ideology that was transparently misplaced.
This paper is based on an unpublished history of Fisons plc, which was an amalgamation of several fertiliser companies. Many of the records of the company have been scattered since its demise and some can no longer be traced. The records of the Fertilizer Manufacturers’ Association (FMA) and its predecessor, the Chemical Manure Manufacturers’ Association (CMMA), were consulted in 1985 at the London headquarters of FMA by Alison Turton, who worked as the researcher on this project. They have similarly disappeared following subsequent mergers and reorganisation. In 2011 the FMA merged with the Agricultural Industries Confederation (https://www.agindustries.org.uk/sectors/fertiliser/) The only organisation to survive is the International Fertilizer Manufacturers Association, now the International Fertilizer Association, based, as it has been since its foundation in 1927, in Paris (https://www.fertilizer.org/)
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