More than six months into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the global fertilizer crunch threatens to starve a planet as prices are too high for some farmers ahead of the next planting season.
That's the view of Maximo Torero, chief economist from the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), who told Bloomberg TV that elevated fertilizer prices could decrease global grain production by upwards of 40% in the next planting season.
Combine food supply chain disruptions due to the war in Ukraine and crop failures worldwide due to extreme weather -- ramping up food production with reduced fertilizer next planting season via key exporting countries could be challenging.
High fertilizer prices are expected to shrink the world's rice production. The grain feeds half of humanity and is vital for political and economic stability across Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Supply disruptions could spark social instabilities in those areas of the world. We outlined the risk of unrest is high over the next six months.
Other UN officials in recent weeks have stepped up warnings about the affordability crisis of fertilizer. Prices in North America have come off the highs but remain 220% above levels in early 2020.
The African Development Bank warned the continent lacks 2 million metric tons of fertilizer.
"We are really starting to yell from every tower that there's a fertilizer crisis ... and the fertilizer crisis is enormous," one UN official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Politico.
Artificial fertilizers contain three primary ingredients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Farmers use the final product to boost crop yields -- if prices remain elevated because of shortages, fewer fertilizers will be used, and harvests next season will shrink, continuing a multi-year food crisis that might only worsen.