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How Europe’s Energy Crisis Could Turn Into A Food Crisis

How Europe’s Energy Crisis Could Turn Into A Food Crisis

Runaway energy inflation has taken a toll on European industry, but another threat is looming.

  • Europe’s two biggest fertilizer suppliers, Russia and Belarus have retaliated against European sanctions by cutting off fertilizer exports.
  • The fact remains that the global food chain, especially its European links, is not in a good place right now.

Runaway energy price inflation has wreaked havoc on European industrial activity, with the heaviest consumers taking the brunt. Aluminum and steel smelters are shutting down because of energy costs. Chemical producers are moving to the United States. BASF is planning a permanent downsizing.

There is, however, a bigger problem than all these would constitute for their respective industries. Fertilizer makers are also shutting down their plants. And fertilizer imports are down because the biggest suppliers of fertilizers for Europe were Russia and Belarus, both currently under sanctions.

Both countries have retaliated against the sanctions by cutting off exports of fertilizers to Europe, and European officials repeating that fertilizer exports are not sanctioned is not really helping.

Russia accounts for 45 percent of the global ammonia nitrate supply, according to figures from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy cited by the FT. But it also accounts for 18 percent of the supply of potash—potassium-containing salts that are one of the main gradients of fertilizers—and 14 percent of phosphate exports.

Belarus is a major exporter of fertilizers, too, especially potash. But Belarus has been under EU sanctions since 2021 on human rights allegations, and unlike Russia, it has seen its fertilizer industry targeted by these sanctions. This has made for an unfortunate coincidence for Europe and its food security.

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