UN aid deliveries (symbolic picture): Does the fertilizer crisis have the potential to lead to a hunger crisis?
Photo: ZUMA Wire / IMAGO
Although artificial fertilizers are considered to be environmentally harmful, they ensure high yields in modern agriculture.
In view of the extremely high natural gas prices, however, the chemical company BASF has recently severely cut back its fertilizer production.
The Piesteritz nitrogen works in Saxony-Anhalt therefore decided to take this step at the beginning of October, according to the »Handelsblatt«.
Other manufacturers have also reduced fertilizer production because of the high gas prices.
Because ammonia is also produced from natural gas, which in turn is the most important ingredient in the production of nitrogen fertilizers.
The supply of fertilizer is therefore decreasing, at the same time the demand is high - the prices for fertilizers have rocketed to all-time highs in the past few weeks.
According to »Agrar Heute«, farmers in this country already have to plan about twice as much money for fertilizing one hectare as in previous years - and in many places there is nothing left to buy.
According to the industry portal “Top Agrar”, Poland has already warned of slumps in yields in the coming year, social unrest cannot be ruled out.
Groceries are already more expensive worldwide
The high fertilizer prices are not only a problem for farmers, as they could lead to higher food prices.
This means that the high gas prices would ultimately also have an impact on the price of fruit and vegetables in the supermarket.
That would not only hurt consumers in Germany and Europe: In emerging and developing countries, the high fertilizer prices could possibly lead to a hunger crisis in the coming year, economists fear.
According to UN figures, 811 million people worldwide suffered from malnutrition last year.
Almost every third person did not have regular access to adequate nutrition.
Economists fear that the hunger crisis could worsen due to the high fertilizer prices. And this immediately when the required fertilizer becomes permanently unaffordable, as the British economist Adam Tooze warned in a newsletter this week. However, indirect effects are also possible, in which poor societies now have to pay even higher import prices for food that they cannot sufficiently produce themselves - such an effect should not occur until 2022 at the earliest, according to Tooze.
However, energy prices are not the only reason for the development of food prices.
The distribution of the sometimes high agricultural subsidies should also play a role.
In addition, there are more frequent droughts due to climate change and scarce freight capacities.
It is therefore not yet possible to precisely estimate what proportion the high gas prices will have in the high food prices and the increasing famine.