The other reason why food prices are rising

The United Nations worst-case scenario calculation assumes that global food prices will increase by a further 8.5% by 2027.

More expensive fertilizers are contributing to these higher costs, with some fertilizers up 300% since September 2020, according to the American Farm Bureau.

“Last year [fertilizer] was about $270 a ton and is now over $1,400 a ton,” Meagan Kaiser of Kaiser Family Farms and farmer director of the United Soybean Board told NBC’s Nightly News with Lester Holt.

“It is frightening. It makes my stomach churn just thinking about how much risk our family farm is taking right now.”

Farmers are forced to pass some of these costs on to customers, resulting in higher food prices.

Fertilizer is essential for plants. Without fertilizer, plants may not get the nutrients they need to produce the yields needed to meet global demand.

According to the International Fertilizer Association, we could only feed about half the world’s population without fertilizer.

Farmers are trying to adapt to this new normal. When asked in spring 2022 what they planned to grow, farmers said they would turn to more soybeans, or a record 91 million acres of the legume, according to US Department of Agriculture data. That may be because legumes don’t need as much fertilizer to grow as corn does.

Fertilizer price spikes began when Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022.

“It’s amazing how dependent the world is on fertilizers from the region where we’re talking about Russia and Ukraine,” Johanna Mendelson Forman, an associate professor in American University’s School of International Service, told CNBC.

According to Morgan Stanley, the region is responsible for at least 28% of global fertilizer exports, including nitrogen-, potassium- and phosphorus-based fertilizers.

Rising natural gas costs are also factored into the price peaks.

“There’s a direct correlation to what we’re seeing in fuel and fertilizer prices,” Jo Handelsman, director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told CNBC.

That’s because fossil fuels are used in the manufacturing process of fertilizers – and that’s one of the reasons why they can contribute to climate change.

In addition, when farmers overuse fertilizers, the chemicals can leak into water bodies, causing environmental damage, pollution and disease.

“I’m not saying fertilizer is bad…our soil naturally has nutrients,” said Ronald Vargas, secretary of the United Nations Global Soil Partnership. “If [soil] is naturally depleted, you need to find a way to make those nutrients available.”

Watch the video above to learn more about the global fertilizer crisis amid supply chain issues and its impact on climate change, while exploring potential solutions on the horizon.


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