Daily Column – 24th March 2022

He said on Tuesday that the war in Ukraine could “turn into a global food crisis,” and one of the main reasons might be a little surprising: rising fertiliser prices.

Industrial-scale crops need a little more attention than your succulents on your window sill. Farmers use fertilisers to give crops the nutrients they need and boost yields.

I bet you know what’s going to happen next: Following Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Western countries have imposed sanctions on the country. This has caused shipments to be stopped, supplies to run out and prices to rise.

The Green Markets North America Fertilizer Price Index says that fertiliser prices rose 10% last week and 40% from the previous month.

The chain reaction

In our globalised world, a conflict in one place can have a huge impact on another. People should think about how less fertiliser from Russia could affect Chinese food production, according to the New York Times.

People in Brazil, the world’s biggest importer of fertiliser, buy a lot of fertiliser from Russia, which sells a lot.

Farmers in Brazil use fertiliser made by Russia to grow crops like soybeans. There are a lot of soybeans grown in Brazil.

To feed its animals, China buys most of the soybeans that Brazil grows and sells them to the country.

The TL;DR: Less Russian fertiliser means less Brazilian soybeans, less Chinese livestock, and higher prices for Chinese meat in China.

Soybeans are just one of many important crops that could be affected by rising fertiliser prices. Corn, wheat, and rice are also crops that could be affected. People who make coffee in Central America say they’re having a “mega emergency” because fertiliser prices are so high. This is how one Costa Rican company makes about 40,000 bags of coffee each year: They use 1,400 tonnes of fertiliser.

In the big picture, food prices around the world were already nearing record highs because of Covid-related supply chain disruptions caused by bad weather, rising energy prices, and other things. The war in Ukraine is only making things worse. I think we’re going to have a food shortage soon. A fertiliser CEO in Europe told the WSJ that it’s a question of how big the company should be.

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