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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.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

The Food Crisis Of 2023 Is Going To Be Far Worse Than Most People Would Dare To Imagine

The Food Crisis Of 2023 Is Going To Be Far Worse Than Most People Would Dare To Imagine

I am trying to sound the alarm about this as loudly as I can.  The global food crisis just continues to intensify, and things are going to get really bad in 2023.  As you will see below, two-thirds of European fertilizer production has already been shut down, currency problems are causing massive headaches for poor nations that need to import food, global weather patterns continue to be completely crazy, and the bird flu is killing millions upon millions of chickens and turkeys all over the planet.  On top of everything else, the war in Ukraine is going to restrict the flow of agricultural and fertilizer exports from that part of the world for a long time to come, because there is no end to the war in sight.  In essence, we are facing a “perfect storm” for global food production, and that “perfect storm” is only going to get worse in the months ahead.

Global hunger has been on the rise for years, and the UN World Food Program is warning that we are heading for “yet another year of record hunger”

The world is at risk of yet another year of record hunger as the global food crisis continues to drive yet more people into worsening levels of severe hunger, warns the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in a call for urgent action to address the root causes of today’s crisis ahead of World Food Day on October 16.

The global food crisis is a confluence of competing crises – caused by climate shocks, conflict and economic pressures – that has pushed the number of severely hungry people around the world from 282 million to 345 million in just the first months of 2022…

…click on the above link to read the rest…

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.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Wave Of European Ammonia Plant Closures To Exacerbate Food Crisis

Wave Of European Ammonia Plant Closures To Exacerbate Food Crisis

A wave of European ammonia-plant shutdowns due to soaring natural gas prices has resulted in a devastating fertilizer crunch, worsening by the week, with as much as 70% of production offline.

“Ammonia prices, though volatile, rose 15% in 3Q and could climb higher as Europe’s record gas prices curtail output and send ammonia producers to the global market in search of replacement supplies to run upgrade facilities — with winter still around the corner,” Bloomberg Intelligence’s Alexis Maxwell wrote in a note.

As of Friday, 70% of capacity is offline across the continent, according to Fertilizers Europe, representing top regional producers.

“The current crisis begs for a swift and decisive action from EU and national policymakers for both energy and fertilizer market,” Jacob Hansen, director general of Fertilizers Europe, said in a statement.

Producers from Norway’s Yara International ASA to CF Industries to Borealis AG recently reduced or halted production because European NatGas prices hit a record high of 343 euros per megawatt hour, making it uneconomical to operate.

“We confirm we are reducing and stopping production of some fertilizer plants in the different EU sites and this for economic reasons,” a spokesperson for Borealis AG said. 

Europe’s benchmark NatGas price soared nearly a third this week as Russian supplies to Europe via Nord Stream 1 pipeline have been reduced to 20% over the summer and face a temporary halt on Aug. 31 for three days.

The region’s fertilizer industry association warned the energy crisis is rippling across many industries and could heavily impact the food industry.

“We are extremely concerned that as prices of natural gas keep increasing, more plants in Europe will be forced to close.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

World Has Just ’10 Weeks’ of Wheat Supplies Left in Storage, Analyst Warns

World Has Just ’10 Weeks’ of Wheat Supplies Left in Storage, Analyst Warns

The world has only about 10 weeks of wheat supplies left in storage amid the conflict in Ukraine and as India has moved to bar exports of wheat in recent weeks, a food insecurity expert says.

Sara Menker, the CEO of agriculture analytics firm Gro Intelligence, told the United Nations Security Council on May 19 that the Russia–Ukraine war “simply added fuel to a fire that was long burning,” saying that it is not the primary cause of the wheat shortage. Ukraine and Russia both produce close to about a third of the world’s wheat.

“I want to start by explicitly saying that the Russia–Ukraine war did not start the food security crisis. It simply added fuel to a fire that was long burning. A crisis we detected tremors from long before the COVID 19 pandemic exposed the fragility of our supply chains,” Menker said, according to a transcript.

“I share this because we believe it’s important for you all to understand that even if the war were to end tomorrow, our food security problem isn’t going away anytime soon without concerted action.”

In providing data, Menker said that due to price increases in major crops this year, it’s made another 400 million worldwide “food insecure,” adding that with wheat, the world “currently only [has] 10 weeks of global consumption sitting in inventory around the world.

“Conditions today are worse than those experienced in 2007 and 2008,” she said. “It is important to note that the lowest grain inventory levels the world has ever seen are now occurring while access to fertilizers is highly constrained, and drought in wheat-growing regions around the world is the most extreme it’s been in over 20 years…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Rockefeller Foundation President Starts Countdown Until All Hell Breaks Loose

Rockefeller Foundation President Starts Countdown Until All Hell Breaks Loose

Rockefeller Foundation President Rajiv Shah told Bloomberg Television’s David Westin a “massive, immediate food crisis” is on the horizon.

Shah provides what could be a timeline for the next global food crisis that could begin “in the next six months.” 

He said global fertilizer supply disruptions caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine would have an “even worse” impact on the crisis, slashing crop yields worldwide.

Shah said debt relief and emergency aid for emerging market countries are needed to mitigate the effects of the food crisis.

Shah’s appearance on Bloomberg is interesting because of the foundation’s repetitive talk about the need for the global food supply to be reset to a more sustainable one. The foundation has closely aligned views with the World Economic Forum (WEF), advocating for a ‘global reset‘.

WEF founder Klaus Schwab famously said in early 2020, months after the virus pandemic began, “The pandemic represents a rare but narrow window of opportunity to reflect, reimagine, and reset our world to create a healthier, more equitable, and more prosperous future.”

While Schwab and other global elites have been calling for a global reset, Rockefeller Foundation’s managing director of Food Initiative Sara Farley has echoed the same message.

Farley’s note published on WEF’s website titled “How to reimagine our food systems for a post-COVID world” outlined the need to “redesign supply chains with nutrition and human health in mind.”

Rockefeller Foundation’s senior vice president of Food Initiative Roy Steiner recently said, “the world is spending far too much on foods that are bad for people and bad for the planet.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Black Swan Event? Top US Fertilizer Producer Hit With Rail Delays To Midwest

Black Swan Event? Top US Fertilizer Producer Hit With Rail Delays To Midwest

A fertilizer supply shock is imminent for US farmers as CF Industries Holdings, Inc. warned Thursday that rail shipments of crop nutrients would be reduced to top agricultural states, which couldn’t come at the worst time as the Northern Hemisphere spring planting season is underway.

The world’s largest fertilizer company said Union Pacific had hit it with railroad-mandated shipping reductions that would impact nitrogen fertilizers such as urea and urea ammonium nitrate shipments to Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, and California. Union Pacific told CF Industries without advance notice to reduce the volume of private cars on its railroad immediately. This means CF Industries had to decrease shipments by a whopping 20% to stay compliant.

“The timing of this action by Union Pacific could not come at a worse time for farmers,” said Tony Will, president and chief executive officer of CF Industries.

“Not only will fertilizer be delayed by these shipping restrictions, but additional fertilizer needed to complete spring applications may be unable to reach farmers at all. By placing this arbitrary restriction on just a handful of shippers, Union Pacific is jeopardizing farmers’ harvests and increasing the cost of food for consumers,” Will said. 

The move is particularly problematic for the Midwest, where 90% of corn and 80% of soybeans are produced in the US. The region is a critical node in the global food system, and tightening the fertilizer supply will only drive up food prices by shrinking harvests.

Farmers have been pressured by record-high fertilizer and diesel costs.

CF Industries released an ominous warning about the lack of fertilizer across the Midwest this year and how it may cause food supply woes: 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

‘I’m afraid we’re going to have a food crisis’: The energy crunch has made fertilizer too expensive to produce, says Yara CEO

‘I’m afraid we’re going to have a food crisis’: The energy crunch has made fertilizer too expensive to produce, says Yara CEO

The world is facing the prospect of a dramatic shortfall in food production as rising energy prices cascade through global agriculture, the CEO of Norwegian fertilizer giant Yara International says.

“I want to say this loud and clear right now, that we risk a very low crop in the next harvest,” said Svein Tore Holsether, the CEO and president of the Oslo-based company. “I’m afraid we’re going to have a food crisis.”

Speaking to Fortune on the sidelines of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Holsether said that the sharp rise in energy prices this summer and autumn had already resulted in fertilizer prices roughly tripling.

In Europe, the natural-gas benchmark hit an all-time high in September, with the price more than tripling from June to October alone. Yara is a major producer of ammonia, a key ingredient in synthetic fertilizer, which increases crop yields. The process of creating ammonia currently relies on hydropower or natural gas.

“To produce a ton of ammonia last summer was $110,” said Holsether. “And now it’s $1,000. So it’s just incredible.”

Food prices have also risen, meaning some farmers can afford more expensive fertilizer. But Holsether argues many smallholder farmers can’t afford the higher costs, which will reduce what they can produce and diminish crop sizes. That in turn will hurt food security in vulnerable regions at a time when access to food is already under threat from the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, including widespread drought.

The company, whose largest shareholder is the Norwegian government, has donated $25 million worth of fertilizer to vulnerable farmers, Holsether said. But Yara isn’t able to eat the costs of such a dramatic rise in energy prices, he says…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

China Export Curbs On Fertilizer Could Worsen Global Food Price Shock 

China Export Curbs On Fertilizer Could Worsen Global Food Price Shock 

China’s move to impose export restrictions on fertilizers will be felt worldwide. Beijing’s increased scrutiny comes as global fertilizer markets have been battered by plant shutdowns and skyrocketing prices that may continue to boost food inflation well into 2022. Chinese Communist Party officials have called for stable fertilizer supplies and food security amid overseas turmoil.

On Oct. 15, Beijing implemented a new rule requiring additional inspection of fertilizer exports. The General Administration of Customs added new inspection requirements on urea to ammonium nitrate, according to Bloomberg.

Last month, a statement published on WeChat by the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planner, urged local authorities to ensure stable prices by keeping fertilizer plants operating despite widespread power cuts. This call for adequate fertilizer supplies is critical for the country to sustain agricultural production amid mounting food security risks.

Despite export curbs, Urea futures in Zhengzhou recently hit a new record high.

Bloomberg sources said some recent Chinese fertilizer cargoes had been delayed by customs for additional checks to obtain new export certificates. They said some shipments would be rerouted for domestic markets or face further delays.

A reduction in exports from China (a country that controls 30% of the global fertilizer market) could cause shortages in India, Pakistan, and Southeast Asia, the biggest buyers of its fertilizers. Higher prices could force farmers to plant less and or have to raise crop prices. The UN’s global food tracker is at a new decade high and may continue to soar higher.

Signs of a fertilizer shortage have already emerged. Europe may face difficulties sourcing fertilizer supplies at multiple domestic plants that have shuttered or reduced the output of the nutrients because of high natural gas prices. China’s export restrictions will make it harder for the euro area to import supplies…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Fertilizer Prices Hit Record Highs, May Pressure Food Inflation Even Higher

Fertilizer Prices Hit Record Highs, May Pressure Food Inflation Even Higher

Fertilizer prices have risen to a record high in North America, threatening to boost food inflation even higher. Nitrogen products are increasing due to the cost of natural gas, which is used in the manufacturing process.

The Green Markets North America Fertilizer Price Index soared to a record high last week of $996.32 per short ton.

The fertilizer market has been roiled by hurricanes, plant shutdowns, sanctions, and shortages of natural gas in Europe and China, pushing nutrient prices sky-high, which will raise the cost of production for global farmers. Here are global fertilizer prices zooming higher:

Fertilizers play an essential role in crop development for producing enough food for the global economy. The soaring costs of nutrients plus rapid food inflation will have the most severe economic impacts on emerging market economies first because low-income folks allocate a more significant part of their incomes to purchasing food. This week, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s global food index hit a new decade high, driven by gains for cereals and vegetable oils.

Expensive fertilizer will push production costs higher for farmers worldwide, which will continue to increase food inflation.

Benefiting from rising fertilizer prices is CF Industries Holdings Inc., the world’s second-biggest fertilizer company.

UK’s Fertilizer Crisis Spreads To EU After Another Firm Slashes Output

UK’s Fertilizer Crisis Spreads To EU After Another Firm Slashes Output

Europe’s energy crisis has claimed another victim, with Austrian fertilizer producer Borealis AG slashing the output of ammonia after the cost of the primary feedstock, natural gas, compresses margins in an industry already facing tight supplies, according to Bloomberg.

Borealis’ ammonia-producing plant uses natural gas to make fertilizer. The high cost of natgas makes fertilizer uneconomical to make. This is yet another sign of deepening woes for the industry after the UK government said it would provide “limited financial support” to help CF Industries restart one of its fertilizer plants this week.

The culprit behind surging natgas prices has been declining flows into Europe via Russia, though there are signs natgas shipments could increase in November. But that won’t alleviate high prices because stocks on the continent are well below average ahead of the winter season, indicating Europe’s energy crisis may drag on for months.

Disruptions of ammonia supply and other fertilizers have had a significant impact on the production of carbon dioxide supply in the UK, sending the industry into a tizzy and rippling through food supply chains, such as slaughterhouses to packaging to carbonated drinks to dry ice production.

Commodity analysts at CRU Group said half the continent’s ammonia capacity could be at risk due to dwindling production because of elevated natgas prices. Spot prices  of ammonia per ton in Western Europe have surged from around $225 per ton at the beginning of the virus pandemic to $700 per ton this month.

Borealis’ reduction in ammonia production is a sign the fertilizer crisis continues to ripple across the continent. The company said Thursday it would analyze the situation” regarding its plants in Austria, France, and the Netherlands – not much detail was given.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Fertilizing a Garden Entirely for Free

Fertilizing a Garden Entirely for Free

At our house we have a goal to produce 80% of our fruit, veggies, meat and dairy within five years of moving onto our land. We only eat a little meat and dairy, but we eat tons of veggies, so we grow a great big garden. Gardening is full of setbacks such as this summer’s drought, and successes such as this fall’s greens, but it’s always interesting. And it’s a powerful tool in the face of global environmental problems and personal health issues.

A vegetable from your garden measures its travel in feet, not miles. According to How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee, a local apple in season emits only 10 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent, while an apple that is “shipped, stored and inefficiently produced” emits fifteen times that (if you can’t find that book at your local library, that’s an affiliate link. My commission doesn’t raise the price of your item, and it supports this site first and then The Cool Effect). Asparagus packaged and air-freighted emits 28 times as much pollution as a local bunch. Plant foods are kinder to the planet than animal foods, and whole foods are kinder than processed foods, but garden foods are best of all.

Eggplant growing in sheet mulch
Eggplant growing in sheet mulch

Eggplant did well in my garden this summer, growing in sheet mulch and fertilized entirely with household waste.

A vegetable from your garden is grown safely and nutritiously with no E. coli contamination and no chemicals you don’t know about. A vegetable from your garden is fresh, giving you the biggest possible dose of vitamins and the most interesting variety through the seasons. Even people with tiny yards or just a balcony can grow something, thereby gaining knowledge and skills that will be valuable as we continue trying to live on this damaged planet.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Beware of the N-bomb

Beware of the N-bomb

There are good, and frightening, reasons to closely follow the changes in the nitrogen cycle. We should not be surprised if the effects and costs of disturbing it turn out to be as dramatic as those for the carbon cycle. In addition, greenhouse gas emissions from nitrogen fertilizers are around 3% of global emissions, but they are not visible in greenhouse gas inventories. The abolition or drastic reduction in the use of chemical fertilizers is a pre-condition for a sustainable food system.


In farming, the availability of nutrients, particularly of nitrogen, potash and phos­phorus – mostly referred to by their chemical symbols N, P and K – is a major limiting factor. All traditional farming systems have had some strategy for replacing nutrients in the soil. One is to rest the soil and allow a natural re-charge and release of nutrients from the soil and through atmospheric decomposition. Crop rotations with leguminous crops can fix nitrogen from the air and the nutritional demands of the various crops can complement each other. Phosphorous, from deeper layers or bound in the soil, can be ‘mined’ by some crops making it available to others. Nutrients can also come from irrigation water (especially sediments in flood waters), animal manure, human waste, plants, grass and other residues, a plethora of natural organic fertil­izers. Farmers have used oil-cakes, feathers, leathers, bone, sea weed and fish as fertilizers. There are even reports that human remains from battlefields and ossuaries have been used as fertilizers. Yet all these methods have some limitations, and in most cases they require a lot of work or other efforts.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Is a key ingredient humans need to live about to run short?

Is a key ingredient humans need to live about to run short?

Phosphorus is essential for all living organisms. So, it’s not surprising that humans get their phosphorus from other living organisms, mostly plants, that have absorbed phosphorus from the soil.

The introduction of phosphate fertilizers made it possible to ensure that enough phosphorus for healthy plant growth is available in practically any farmland soils. At first, farmers had access to phosphate fertilizers from bone ash and later from phosphate deposits accumulated from bird and bat guano on certain tropical islands (some of which deposits were 30 feet deep before they were mined and completely exhausted). More recently, phosphates have come from mining rocks rich in phosphorus.

All seemed well for the long term as supplies of the rock phosphates were thought to be hundreds of years at current rates of consumption. But a group of researchers upended the consensus in 2009 forecasting that phosphate production could peak as early as 2030. A peak wouldn’t be the end of phosphate production. But it would mark the beginning of an ongoing decline in phosphorus available from mines. This would come as a shock to a world food system accustomed to consistently rising phosphorus supplies needed to feed a growing population.

There are ways to recycle the phosphorus we eat, primarily through the sewage sludge from municipal sewage systems. But one of the easiest and most beneficial ways is building soil using compost. Crop residue, animal manure and human food wastes are important sources for such compost. It’s an old idea that is finding it’s way back into our modern agriculture.

In fact, one of the most important factors in the availability of phosphorus in any soil is the healthy presence of vast colonies of microorganisms that free phosphorus from its inorganic chemical prisons and make it available to organic life. Compost is an excellent way to build such a microbiotic community.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Eat Less Meat and Save the Planet

Eat Less Meat and Save the Planet

Salvador Dali Portrait of Gala with Two Lamb Chops Balanced on Her Shoulder 1933

Dr. D: 

Eat less meat to save the planet – report (1)
The new diet that could save the planet (2)
What to eat to save the planet: Report urges ‘radical changes’ to world’s diet – less meat, more veggies (3)

These headlines, likely sourced from a recent article from “The Lancet” (4) are a regular feature of our time, in diet, in environmentalism, and in global warming. They are well-researched, sourced by the world’s experts, and put forward with the highest intentions. However, they are also completely wrong – dangerously, ignorantly wrong. 

Like most industries, agriculture and food production is a specialty, with its own language and details. I don’t attempt to tell the Lancet how to perform heart surgery, for to do so would be ridiculous, dangerous, outside of my expertise. I wouldn’t tell a geologist how to interpret the magnetic layers of rock, or how oceanographers should properly interpret sea water samples to guide us on fishing or pollution. Yet this is what they do for farmers.

The primary drive of most such articles is that, with so many people, and so much hunger, we find that it takes “2,500 gallons of water, 12 pounds of grain, 35 pounds of topsoil and the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline to produce one pound of feedlot beef.” that “64% of US cropland produces livestock feed.” (5) That it takes “20 pounds corn [to make] 1 pound beef.” (6) Or that you can get 15lbs of beef per acre, but 263lbs of soybeans. (7) Also that cattle are the primary reason for deforestation, and a major cause of methane.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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