To fight against Western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, Russia might stop exporting fertilizer.
That’s a serious threat to the world’s food supply, given uncertainties regarding fertilizer even before the war erupted last month.
The Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade recommended halting fertilizer exports until suspensions on transportation in and out of Russia are lifted, according to the Russian state news agency TASS, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
The world’s biggest container ship operators, A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S and Mediterranean Shipping, have stopped serving Russian ports.
“The ministry had to recommend Russian producers temporarily suspend export shipments of Russian fertilizers until carriers resume rhythmic work and provide guarantees that Russian fertilizer exports will be completed in full,” the Russian ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters.
Russia produces 50 million tons — 13 percent of the world supply — of potash, phosphate and nitrogen for fertilizer, the report said.
“Failures in fertilizer shipments could have a direct impact on national security in several countries and cause serious food shortages for hundreds of millions of people already in the medium term,” the ministry said.
Russia’s biggest fertilizer companies export to Asia and Brazil, Reuters reported.
Fertilizer issues have been of concern even without the fighting in Ukraine, and costs have been rising “astronomically,” according to the Texas Farm Bureau.
In August 2021, fertilizer prices were expected to go up by 10 percent. By January, the predicted increase rose to 80 percent.
“Coupled with the current COVID supply chain issues, this will further stress the production environment for agriculture across the country,” according to Joe Outlaw, co-director of the Texas A&M University Agricultural and Food Policy Center.
Other reasons for the price increases are unclear, Outlaw said.
“Global fertilizer prices remain at record high levels. Uncertainty regarding the availability and pricing of key fertilizers and the ultimate impact on the global acreage mix is a big concern among grain traders,” the report said.
And it’s more than fertilizer. Even without a refusal by Russia to export, the Ukraine conflict could threaten the world’s wheat supply through destroyed farmland and disrupted transportation, according to CNBC.
“What price are you going to pay for those chicken wings?” said John Kilduff, Again Capital founding partner. “And it’s going to be sky high and potential sticker shock — that’s the issue with this situation.”
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