World Food Shock as Yields Could Drop 50%
March 8, 2022 (EIRNS)—Yara International, which operates in more than 60 countries, buys considerable amounts of essential raw materials from Russia. Yara’s boss, Svein Tore Holsether, told BBC, “We were already in a difficult situation before the war ... and now it’s additional disruption to the supply chains, and we’re getting close to the most important part of this season for the Northern Hemisphere, where a lot of fertilizer needs to move, and that will quite likely be impacted.” He continued, “For me, it’s not whether we are moving into a global food crisis—it’s how large the crisis will be.”
Russia is not only producer of some 15% of fertilizers worldwide, but also enormous amounts of nutrients, like potash and phosphate—key ingredients in fertilizers. Holsether said, “Half the world’s population gets food as a result of fertilizers... and if that’s removed from the field for some crops, [the yield] will drop by 50%.”
In fact, Yara is among the large multinational fertilizer cartels which had sharply raised fertilizer prices, out of the reach of many farmers, before Russia took any military move against Ukraine. Other companies in the cartel had also gotten penalty tariffs placed on Russian, as well as several other countries’ fertilizers exports.
The food shock has other fronts. Drought is now covering 59% of the United States and northern Mexico. The AgWeb Farm Journal on March 6 quoted Brad Rippey, a USDA meteorologist: “By far the wheat belt is the biggest concern. If you look at crop conditions in areas where the crops are starting to actively grow, it’s absolutely terrible.” He says the conditions are very bad from Kansas to Texas, both for wheat and for pasture grass. “In Texas, you have three-quarters of the winter wheat crop rated in very poor condition. Almost that much of the rangeland and pasture land 69% currently rated very poor to poor and soil moisture in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. At least 75% very short to short at the end of February.”
China’s wheat is also down. Agriculture and Rural Affairs Minister Tang Renjian told the press on March 7, China’s winter wheat harvest in June/July would be bad. “Not long ago we went to the grassroots to do a survey, and many farming experts and technicians told us that crop conditions this year could be the worst in history,” he said, according to Reuters. “This year’s grain production indeed faces huge difficulties.” There are estimates of a 20% drop from last year’s winter wheat harvest.
The UN World Food Program’s David Beasley wrote in an op-ed, “The Ukraine War Could Leave Hundreds of Millions Hungry Around the World,” in Washington Post March 8: “Between 2019 and today, the number of people at the brink of famine has risen from 27 million to 44 million. An additional 232 million people are just one step behind that category. WFP helped about 128 million of those individuals last year with cash and food assistance. These numbers are fanned by conflict, climate change, COVID-19 and now, increasingly, cost.”