Concerns about rising fertilizer costs could affect food supply

Fears have been expressed in the agriculture and fertilizer supply sectors that a global price disruption could lead to food inflation and food shortages.

In recent months, the price of artificial fertilizers has reached record levels. The price has now more than doubled from the same period last year.

Artificial fertilizers are widely used in the agricultural sector to increase yields.

But the rising cost of natural gas, which is widely used in fertilizer production, coupled with China’s export controls on raw materials, has caused prices to skyrocket.

Some factories in Europe have temporarily closed or reduced production citing the high cost of natural gas to negatively impact margins.

Almost 1.6 million tonnes of fertilizer are sold in Ireland each year.

One of the biggest importers of fertilizers is Grassland Agro based in Limerick.

The managing director of the company said that in 20 years of activity, he had never experienced such difficulties in sourcing fertilizer and the associated prices.

Liam Woulfe told RTÉ News, “As we approach the coming spring and grazing and planting season, there is no guarantee that the required level of fertilizer that farmers have been accustomed to will be available. I think the crisis will be available. current will continue at least until next April. “

He said the global pandemic has also added to the difficulties as fewer ships are available for shipping companies.

He added: “If the problem is not resolved in the coming weeks, we will be on the brink of a food crisis as well as a fertilizer crisis.”

It is because of growing fears that farmers are reducing plantings and production due to the cost of fertilizers.

Ian Kelleher is a dairy farmer and vice president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association in Limerick.

He said that “last year my fertilizer bill was € 21,000. I was given a price for next year of € 50,000 for the same amount of fertilizer. This is not sustainable. for no farmer and something needs to be done or the food supply will be affected. “

ICMSA called for a coordinated effort at European level to address these issues.

The IFA criticized the European Commission for what it called “the organization’s failure to act in the face of rising fertilizer prices”.

IFA President Tim Cullinan has called for the suspension of anti-dumping tariffs on nitrogen fertilizer imports into the EU.

The issue of rising fertilizer prices and fears of its impact on the food supply have been debated at European level.

The Deputy Director General of the Agriculture and Rural Development Department of the European Commission, Michael Scannell, said “based on an analysis done on the winter plantation projections – we see no major threats to them. short-term food supply “.

But he added that “in the medium and long term, it is a different scenario and the European Union is very concerned about recent developments”.

He said the question highlighted Europe’s dependence on imported energy and natural gas and that “the solution is to identify a more resilient and sustainable energy sector in the future, recognizing that Europe has a fundamental structural problem in our dependence on imported energy. We need to identify more sustainable sources of green energy and reduce our dependence on fertilizers “.

The issue is expected to be discussed at the next European Council meeting later this month.