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Approaching peak phosphorus

Approaching peak phosphorus

Any long-term solution to the projected decline in phosphate supply must involve improving phosphorus use efficiency in crop plants.

In times of rising food prices and global food insecurity it is important to remember the basic needs for productive and efficient agriculture. One of these needs is the use of fertilizer. While much research focuses on the problem of overfertilization and its negative environmental impacts, mostly due to nitrogen runoff, another reason to rethink the wasteful use of fertilizer is that complete fertilizer is a non-renewable resource due to its phosphorus component, an essential plant macronutrient that is almost exclusively mined as the mineral phosphorite, also known as rock phosphate.

Credit: RMBrown / Alamy Stock Photo

Over 70% of global phosphorite reserves are held by Morocco, followed by China with 5%, Syria and Algeria with 3% each, and Russia, South Africa, the US, Egypt and Jordan with 2% each. However, agriculture does not just depend on phosphorite reserves, but on the whole fertilizer production process, which requires a functioning phosphorus supply chain. Production is influenced by political and economic factors such as war and conflict. Despite its vast reserves, Morocco is only the second largest phosphate producer, due to ongoing tensions with Western Sahara and high costs of mining. Therefore, it should be kept in mind that not only are the reserves critical for food security, but that the immediate accessibility of phosphates to farmers is also critical for food security. Global reserves that are accessible at a reasonable cost of mining are important in the long term, but how long will these reserves last?

Geophysicist Marion King Hubbert formulated the concept of peak oil in 1956, reminding us that the planet’s resources are not infinite. Decades later, and attracting much less attention, a similar idea was established for phosphorus, and it was predicted that its peak could be reached globally as soon as 20331

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Europe’s Natural Gas Shortage Could Trigger A Food Crisis

Europe’s Natural Gas Shortage Could Trigger A Food Crisis

  • Energy crises impact nearly every aspect of our lives, and that is particularly true of food markets, with food production next year expected to be severely threatened.
  • About 70 percent of the cost of fertilizer production is solely the price of natural gas, and as the price of energy soars, the cost of making and moving food is increasing alongside it.
  • At the same time, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and threats from Putin that Russia may alter grain export routes have only added to uncertainty in food markets.

The problem with an energy crisis is that it’s actually an everything crisis. In a world where virtually every industry relies on energy in some form, runaway inflation is an inevitability. This phenomenon is not news – you’ve been experiencing it for the better part of two years now. But while global governments are using every tool in their kits to curb the rising inflation rates, there’s far less they can do about the coming food shortage.

For months, the agricultural industry has been warning the rest of the world that next year’s food production is severely threatened, as the fertilizer industry is in shambles. Industrial NPK fertilizers (so named for their makeup of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium oxide), are heavily reliant on natural gas supplies. About 70 percent of the cost of fertilizer production is solely the price of natural gas, which is used in liberal amounts to make the ammonia phosphate slurries that turn into fertilizer. Indeed, according to CRU Group, European fertilizer producers in the region are currently losing approximately $2,000 for every ton of ammonia produced. So as Russia has stemmed and then indefinitely stopped the flow of natural gas into Europe, sending gas prices through the roof, the continent’s fertilizer sector has halted as much as 70 percent of its production capacity.

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Why are farmers in the Netherlands protesting?

Blamed for much of the climate crisis, biodiversity decline, water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, farmers and farming are at the centre of a worldwide debate which is only gaining heat. This argument has come to a head in the Netherlands, where farmers have been involved in high-conflict protests, blocking roads with tractors and farm waste, and setting fire to bales of hay. Police response to protests has been reportedly heavy handed –  even shooting at protestors.

Why are they protesting? Dutch courts have insisted on a 50% (up to 70% in some areas) reduction in nitrogen pollution by 2030, to be achieved by drastic reductions in livestock numbers. Farmers feel singled out, and the Government has taken a U-turn on its previous support of intensive farming.

Flag of the Netherlands

The problem

For decades, in the Netherlands, government policy has promoted the intensification of the livestock sector, and a lack of intervention in the market has meant that prices have been pushed down, leaving ever-greater intensification as the only means to stay afloat for many. The Netherlands have Europe’s highest livestock density, with 3.8 ‘livestock units’ (a measure of animal numbers) per hectare of agricultural area, which, being a small country, leaves it with a huge issue when it comes to the volume of waste these animals produce. When manure and urine mix, ammonia, a compound of nitrogen, is released, and can damage natural habitats and result in air pollution. While the focus of much of the coverage has been on dairy farms, pig farms in the Netherlands, in particular, are also a major source of nitrogen and phosphate pollution, with much of the nitrogen coming in the form of high protein soybean meal, often imported from recently deforested areas in South America.

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The great unravelling

The great unravelling

Real life Bond villain Klaus Schwab has become the focus of ridicule following crude attempts to remove articles praising Sri Lanka’s “Vision 2025” economic plan from the World economic Forum (WEF) website – the world’s leading proponent of the hi-tech fourth industrial revolution apparently not realising that nothing ever disappears from the internet.

Sri Lanka was supposed to be the poster child for the Great Green New Reset, scoring a 98 percent ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) ranking.  Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa winning considerable praise from globalist leaders and climate activists alike for his speech to the COP26 conference in Glasgow last November:

“Sri Lanka recently restricted imports of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and weedicides due to public health concerns, water contamination, soil degradation, and biodiversity impacts.

“Although opposed by entrenched lobbies, this has created opportunities for innovation and investment into organic agriculture that will be healthier and more sustainable in future.”

Critics of climate action have understandably focussed on this policy as “the reason” for Sri Lanka’s economic collapse and descent into political chaos – Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe having fled the country after the hungry masses invaded the presidential palace last week.  In spite of praise from organisations like the WEF and the world bank, however, the Sri Lankan economy was highly indebted and vulnerable to economic shocks long before the country’s leaders decided that a mass crash diet was in order.  The country’s main sources of foreign currency – without which it could not repay its debts – are tea exports and tourism.  Tourism was, of course, crushed in 2020 and 2021, as countries locked down and air travel ground to a halt.  In 2022, moreover, air travel is still disrupted, and far fewer consumers can afford international travel.

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India isn’t the only one banning food exports. These countries are doing the same

  • The war has triggered a huge spike in wheat prices, with Russia and Ukraine among the biggest exporters of the commodity. Many countries have banned wheat, as well as other food exports as a result of the Ukraine crisis.
  • “As the war continues, there is a growing likelihood that food shortages, particularly of grains and vegetable oils, will become acute, leading more countries to turn to restrictions on trade,” said the International Food Policy Research Institute.
  • Here’s a list of countries that have banned food exports in the months after the Russia-Ukraine war started, according to a live tracker developed by the International Food Policy Research Institute.
Workers unload wheat sacks from a truck at a Punjab Grains Procurement Corp. facility in the Ludhiana district of Punjab, India, on Sunday, May 1, 2022.
India has banned wheat exports as the price of grain surged this year due in part to the Russia-Ukraine war.
T. Narayan | Bloomberg | Getty Images

India has banned wheat exports, becoming the latest country to do so as the price of grain surged this year due in part to the Russia-Ukraine war.

The war has triggered a huge spike in wheat prices, with Russia and Ukraine among the biggest exporters of the commodity. Both countries account for 29% of global wheat exports, according to the World Bank.

“With food prices already high due to COVID-related supply chain disruptions and drought-reduced yields last year, Russia’s invasion came at a bad time for global food markets,” said the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in an April note.

Washington D.C.-based think-tank the Peterson Institute for International Economics added in a recent note that Russia’s war on Ukraine has “taken a shocking toll on the region.” “It has also contributed to a global food crisis, as Russia is blocking vital fertilizer exports needed by farmers elsewhere, and Ukraine’s role as the breadbasket for Africa and the Middle East has been destroyed.”

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World’s Largest Fertilizer Company Warns Crop Nutrient Disruptions Through 2023

World’s Largest Fertilizer Company Warns Crop Nutrient Disruptions Through 2023

The world’s largest fertilizer company warned supply disruptions could extend into 2023. A bulk of the world’s supply has been taken offline due to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. This has sparked soaring prices and shortages of crop nutrients in top growing areas worldwide; an early indication of a global food crisis could be in the beginning innings.

Bloomberg reports Canada-based Nutrien Ltd.’s CEO Ken Seitz told investors on Tuesday during a conference call that he expects to increase potash production following supply disruptions in Russia and Ukraine (both major fertilizer suppliers). Seitz expects disruptions “could last well beyond 2022.”

Seitz said the conflict plus Western sanctions on Russia and Belarus has reduced fertilizer supply on global markets and could reshape crop nutrient trade, thus creating even more supply uncertainty.

“Could there be a change in global trade patterns as a result? We think that’s a possibility,” he said. 

Fertilizer disruptions could be a multi-year event. Already, farmers worldwide are reducing fertilizers, which may threaten yields come harvest time. The repercussions could be huge: Lower yields may exacerbate the food crisis. 

Here are the latest signs commercial farmers worldwide are reducing fertilizer usage because of higher prices or shortages.

Revealed last week, SLC Agricola SA, one of Brazil’s largest farming operations, managing fields of soybeans, corn, and cotton fields in an area larger than the state of Delaware, will reduce the use of fertilizer by 20% and 25%

Coffee farmers in Brazil, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Costa Rica, some of the largest coffee-producing countries, are expected to spread less fertilizer because of high costs and shortages. A coffee cooperative representing 1,200 farmers in Costa Rica predicts coffee output could slip 15% next year because of soaring fertilizer costs. 

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Ukraine war: World Bank warns of ‘human catastrophe’ food crisis

Ukraine war: World Bank warns of ‘human catastrophe’ food crisis

A combine harvester in a wheat field.IMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES

The world faces a “human catastrophe” from a food crisis arising from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, World Bank president David Malpass has said.

He told the BBC that record rises in food prices would push hundreds of millions people into poverty and lower nutrition, if the crisis continues.

The World Bank calculates there could be a “huge” 37% jump in food prices.

This would hit the poor hardest, who will “eat less and have less money for anything else such as schooling”.

In an interview with BBC economics editor Faisal Islam, Mr Malpass, who leads the institution charged with global alleviation of poverty, said the impact on the poor made it “an unfair kind of crisis… that was true also of Covid”.

“It’s a human catastrophe, meaning nutrition goes down. But then it also becomes a political challenge for governments who can’t do anything about it, they didn’t cause it and they see the prices going up,” he said on the sidelines of the IMF-World Bank meetings in Washington.

The price rises are broad and deep, he said: “It’s affecting food of all different kinds oils, grains, and then it gets into other crops, corn crops, because they go up when wheat goes up”.

There was enough food in the world to feed everybody, he said, and global stockpiles are large by historical standards, but there will have to be a sharing or sales process to get the food to where it is needed.

Mr Malpass also discouraged countries from subsidising production or capping prices.

Instead, he said, the focus needed to be on increasing supplies across the world of fertilisers and food, alongside targeted assistance for the very poorest people.

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Limits to Growth: Natural gas fertilizer that feeds 4 billion of us

Limits to Growth: Natural gas fertilizer that feeds 4 billion of us

Preface.  In chapter 4 of my book “Life After Fossil Fuels: A Reality Check on Alternative Energy“, I explain how it came to be that fertilizer is made out of natural gas, using the energy of natural gas, and why it allows at least 4 billion of us to be alive. Yet natural gas is finite. And now there are shortages due to high prices.  In the U.S. Congress voted to allow natural gas to be exported several years ago, partly to help Europeans not become dependent on Russian gas and fall into their sphere of influence.  But now it’s costing farmers all over the world so much many will go out of business. In the U.S., especially small farmers who don’t get subsidies like the huge farms do.

High Natural gas prices in the news:

2022 Rising price of fertilizer is forcing NC farmers out of the business. North Carolina farmers say the cost of fertilizer has tripled over the past two years and is threatening to drive smaller farms out of the business entirely. The spike in cost has left family farms looking for ways to stay afloat while still producing enough food. As one of the most essential tools in agriculture, fertilizer makes up 15% of all farming costs in the U.S., according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. But since September 2020, the cost of fertilizer nationwide has spiked up to 300% as demand for its primary ingredients like ammonia and liquid nitrogen has soared. One farmer said that “Now everybody’s going to chicken litter, and we can’t even find the chicken litter now to do for our farm.”

***

2021 This Chemical Is in Short Supply, and the Whole World Feels It. New York Times.

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“Fertilizer Is Out Of Control” – US Farmers Ditch Corn For Soy To Save On Costs 

“Fertilizer Is Out Of Control” – US Farmers Ditch Corn For Soy To Save On Costs 

Fertilizer prices are at record highs following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine puts massive pressure on American farmers to transition to crops that need less fertilizer.

Bloomberg survey found that farmers will plant 2 million more acres of soybeans and about 2 million fewer of corn. That’s because soybeans require very little fertilizer versus corn.

Farmer Tim Gregerson of Omaha, Nebraska, said he’ll plant more soybeans this year because “fertilizer is out of control.” He said fertilizer prices spiked even before the Russian invasion, and it was then he decided to reduce the corn-to-soy ratio to about 50-50 this upcoming growing season.

On top of soaring fertilizer prices, he told Bloomberg, diesel, tractors, machine parts, feed for livestock, herbicide, and seed costs, and just about everything to do with farming are astronomically higher this year.

Farmer John Gilbert near Iowa Falls, Iowa, said his decision was made in January when fertilizer prices spiked.

A gauge of prices for US Gulf Coast Urea, US Cornbelt Potash, and NOLA Barge DAP, called the Green Markets North American Fertilizer Price Index, is up 43% since the Russian invasion and up 233% to $1,270 per ton since the start of the 2021 growing season.

The rising cost of natural gas, the primary input for most nitrogen fertilizer, has been one reason for rising fertilizer prices. Also, global supplies are expected to tighten as Russia will limit fertilizer exports to ‘unfriendly‘ countries. Russia is one of the biggest exporters globally — the US just so happens to be a large importer of nitrogen and potash from Russia.

Gregerson said due to global disruptions, “getting fertilizer is going to be more and more of a problem for the world in general.” In return, farmers will transition to crops that use less fertilizer — and it will be done globally.

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What If It Breaks?

What If It Breaks?

Making your entire economy a Landfill Economy dependent on the fantasy of infinite replacements and substitutions is the height of hubris and folly.

Very few people ask: what if it breaks? It’s a question we can ask of a great many things: touchscreens, motherboards, tools, vehicles, supply chains and entire systems: what if it breaks?

The first thing we notice is the great number of things which can’t be repaired, they can only be replaced. Good luck repairing the touchscreen or motherboard in your vehicle. Oops, the puncture in your tire is in the sidewall, no repair possible, buy a new tire.

The entire economic system assumes two things: 1) there will always be replacements for everything that can’t be repaired and 2) there will always be substitutes for everything we want. Beef too expensive? Then buy fake-meat. If that’s too expensive, substitute chicken. And so on: there will always be a substitute that can scale globally that will get cheaper as it scales.

Unfortunately, both assumptions are false. There are no replacements for oil and fertilizers. What we have are ifs: if we build 1,000 nuclear reactors, then we can convert this electricity into hydrogen which will be the fuel of the future. And so on. If, if, if. Nice, but getting beyond if is non-trivial: oops, we need hydrocarbon energy to build the 1,000 nuclear reactors and all the complex equipment to convert seawater into hydrogen on a scale large enough to matter.

Not only are there no substitutes for many things, there are no replacement parts, either. Too bad about your entire Smart Home system going down. The vendor of the do-hickey that’s connected to your hub went out of business and so there’s no replacement parts or software upgrades….

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Food Crisis Imminent: Hungary Bans All Grains Exports Effective Immediately

Food Crisis Imminent: Hungary Bans All Grains Exports Effective Immediately

(Update 1:25pm ET) – Those who have it, are no longer giving it away, and those that don’t will soon find themselves in the middle of an epic food crisis.

Just hours after we reported that Russia effectively banned exports of fertilizers, moments ago Hungary – one of Europe’s most grain rich nations – has circled the wagons and realizing which way the wind is blowing, just announced that it will banning all grain exports effective immediately, in a statement .

Expect wheat prices, already at record highs, to promptly double from here in the next few weeks as the world realizes the extent of the global food crisis that is coming.

Our suggestion: buy flour, rice, barley and any other grains you can now, rather than waiting one month to buy them because you have to.

* * *

Earlier

This morning we listed some of the countries that are dangerously (and almost exclusively) reliant on Russia and Ukraine for their wheat imports, highlighting Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and others…

… which are facing an “Arab Spring” style food crisis (and potential uprising) in the coming weeks unless the Ukraine conflict is resolved.

And unfortunately, we can now confidently predict that the coming food crisis will strike every country that is using food fertilizer – which is all – because moments ago, Russian Interfax reported that as part of Moscow’s countersanctions, Russia has recommended fertilizer makers to halt exports, a move which will sent not only fertilizer prices orbitally higher, but all food prices will soon follow.

  • *RUSSIA RECOMMENDS FERTILIZER MAKERS TO HALT EXPORTS: IFX
  • *RUSSIAN MINISTRY CITES LOGISTICS ISSUES ON FERTILIZERS: IFX

Worse still, natural gas is required in the manufacturing process for most nitrogen/fertilizer products and so the recent surge in European NatGas prices to record highs will only exacerbate the cost of fertilizer from any halt from Russia…

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Russia bans ammonium nitrate exports until April to support domestic farmers

Russia bans ammonium nitrate exports until April to support domestic farmers

Russia has banned the export of ammonium nitrate (AN) from Feb. 2 to April 1, in a widely-expected move by the government as it seeks to guarantee affordable supplies for domestic farmers following the spike in global fertilizer prices.

Ammonia gas, one of the key materials in AN production, has seen prices rise more than fivefold since October 2020. Rising costs for natural gas, a key input of AN production, have also impacted AN prices. Those higher prices have forced farmers to reconsider their nitrogen fertilizer usage, favoring legumes such as soybeans, which require less nitrogen fertilizer than corn and wheat. Ammonium nitrate is one of two main sources of nitrogen fertilizer, with the other main source of nitrogen being derived from urea.

“Additional demand has arisen on the domestic market for ammonium nitrate from both agricultural producers and industrial businesses,” Russia’s Ministry of Agriculture said in a statement released late Feb. 1 on its website. It said that the warm winter in southern Russia had brought forward spring sowing by several weeks and so stimulated demand for nitrogen fertilizers.

It is unclear what the effect of this news will have on further increases in fertilizer prices. However, one source importing European fertilizer to the UK said Feb. 2 that the news “had already been in the pipeline, and [AN] stocks have been built, certainly in the UK.”

Russia represents around two thirds of the world’s annual 20 million mt ammonium nitrate production, most of which is used in fertilizers to improve yields for crops such as corn, cotton and wheat.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations expects total nitrogen fertilizer production to be around 190 million mt in 2022, according to its most recent market outlook published in 2019. Non-nitrogen fertilizers can also be produced from phosphoric acid and potash, and the FAO put production of those two substances at 64 million mt and 65 million mt, respectively.

A Farming Insider Has Warned Me That The Coming Food Shortages Are Going To Be FAR WORSE Than We Are Being Told

A Farming Insider Has Warned Me That The Coming Food Shortages Are Going To Be FAR WORSE Than We Are Being Told

The information that I am about to share with you is extremely alarming, but I have always endeavored to never sugarcoat things for my readers.  Right now, there are shortages of certain items in grocery stores across the United States, and food supplies have gotten very tight all over the globe.  I have repeatedly warned that this is just the beginning, but I didn’t realize how dire things have already gotten until I received an email from a farming insider that I have corresponded with over the years.  I asked him if I could publicly share some of the information that he was sharing with me, and he said that would be okay as long as I kept his name out of it.

According to this farming insider, dramatically increased costs for fertilizer will make it impossible for many farmers to profitably plant corn this year.  The following is an excerpt from an email that he recently sent me…

“Things for 2022 are interesting (and scary). Input costs for things like fertilizer, liquid nitrogen and seeds are like triple and quadruple the old prices. It will not be profitable to plant this year. Let me repeat, the economics will NOT work. Our plan, is to drop about 700 acres of corn off and convert to soybeans (they use less fertilizer, and we also have chicken manure from that operation). Guess what? We are not the only ones with those plans. Already there is a shortage of soybean seeds, so we will see how that will work out. The way I see it, there will be a major grain shortage later in the year, especially with corn. I mean, we are small with that…

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‘Farms Are Failing’ as Fertilizer Prices Drive Up Cost of Food

‘Farms Are Failing’ as Fertilizer Prices Drive Up Cost of Food

Farmers in the developing world say they are curtailing production, which means global hunger could worsen

From South America’s avocado, corn and coffee farms to Southeast Asia’s plantations of coconuts and oil palms, high fertilizer prices are weighing on farmers across the developing world, making it much costlier to cultivate and forcing many to cut back on production.

That means grocery bills could go up even more in 2022, following a year in which global food prices rose to decade highs. An uptick would exacerbate hunger—already acute in some parts of the world because of pandemic-linked job losses—and thwart efforts by politicians and central bankers to subdue inflation.

“Farms are failing and many people are not growing,” said 61-year-old Rodrigo Fierro, who produces avocados, tangerines and oranges on his 10-acre farm in central Colombia. He has seen fertilizer prices double in recent months, he said.

A coffee plantation in Brazil earlier this month.

PHOTO: JONNE RORIZ/BLOOMBERG NEWS

A woman harvesting in a field in Ivory Coast. Fertilizer demand in sub-Saharan Africa could fall 30% this year, which nonprofit International Fertilizer Development Center says would translate to a loss in food production equivalent to the needs of 100 million people.

PHOTO: LEGNAN KOULA/SHUTTERSTOCK

Christina Ribeiro do Valle, who comes from a long line of coffee growers in Brazil, is this year paying three times what she paid last year for the fertilizer she needs. Coupled with a recent drought that hit her crop hard, it means Ms. do Valle, 75, will produce a fraction of her Ribeiro do Valle brand of coffee, some of which is exported.

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Here’s How the Energy Crisis Turns Into Hunger and Then… War?

Here’s How the Energy Crisis Turns Into Hunger and Then… War?

Energy

We have previously warned about a whopping food crisis and supply problems in the fertilizer market. Well, now is worse because that was BEFORE we had the natural gas crisis. Why is that important?

Natural gas is THE critical input into making fertilizer. Urea is essentially ammonia in solid state, the process of which entails reacting ammonia with CO2. And we all now know — thanks to the climate nazis — that CO2 is currently the devil. The problem of course is that with no natural gas there is no urea, and with no urea there is no fertilizer. And with no fertilizer… well, we will eat each other.

Here are the spot urea prices.

Something else that we had noted some time back (in Korea) but which now seems like a larger problem.

Here is an article about an Australian farmer who warns the urea supply crisis could halt normal life within weeks.

Here’s what he says:

‘Not only will we not be able to grow cattle and we will not be able to grow food and we will not be able to grow grain or anything like that, but even if we could, we can’t move it, because we can’t turn a wheel in a truck because we have no Adblue,’ [AdBlue is needed for diesel vehicles — half of all trucks on Australian roads run on diesel

As of February we might not have a truck on the road in Australia, we might not have a train on the tracks.

‘So quite literally the whole country comes to a standstill as of February.’

The farmer then, goes on to say:

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