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Shortages Threaten Farmers’ Key Tool: Fertilizer
Keith Bradsher and Andrew Martin, New York Times
... Now those gains are threatened in many countries by spot shortages and soaring prices for fertilizer, the most essential ingredient of modern agriculture.
Some kinds of fertilizer have nearly tripled in price in the last year, keeping farmers from buying all they need. That is one of many factors contributing to a rise in food prices that, according to the United Nations’ World Food Program, threatens to push tens of millions of poor people into malnutrition.
Protests over high food prices have erupted across the developing world, and the stability of governments from Senegal to the Philippines is threatened.
In the United States, farmers in Iowa eager to replenish nutrients in the soil have increased the age-old practice of spreading hog manure on fields. In India, the cost of subsidizing fertilizer for farmers has soared, leading to political dispute. And in Africa, plans to stave off hunger by increasing crop yields are suddenly in jeopardy.
The squeeze on the supply of fertilizer has been building for roughly five years. Rising demand for food and biofuels prompted farmers everywhere to plant more crops. As demand grew, the fertilizer mines and factories of the world proved unable to keep up.
(30 April 2008)
Vietnam's farmers face paradox of the paddy
Soaring costs keeping pace with prices as producers fail to cash in on crisis
Geoffrey York, The Globe and Mail
... While the price of rice has doubled in recent months, most farmers are benefiting very little - even in Vietnam, the world's second-biggest rice exporter.
Their revenue has increased, but so too have their input costs - especially fertilizer, closely linked to the price of energy. Fuel, required for pumping water to their rice paddies and transporting their harvest, is another fast-rising cost. Even the cost of labour is skyrocketing as farm workers insist on higher wages because of Vietnam's record-high inflation rate.
In interviews across Vietnam, rice farmers unanimously reported that their costs have nearly doubled since last year, leaving them without any increase in income, despite the surging rice prices in domestic and global markets.
(1 May 2008)
Global fertiliser shortage looming
Dan Buglass, The Scotsman
... Farmers are just about managing to survive with higher fuel costs which have seen "red diesel," now priced at over 60p per litre. But the same cannot be said for the cost of chemical fertilisers where demand and supply are currently miles out of balance.
Calum Findlay, a trader with the Lincolnshire based firm of Gleadell, which is one of the leading players in the UK market, is always close to market realities.
Speaking exclusively to The Scotsman yesterday, he said: "It is really quite frightening from the farmer's perspective. Granular urea - that's a form of nitrogen - has recently been trading at £350 per tonne, but my information is that it will soon be close to £390 per tonne.
"Some compounds, especially those containing high levels of potash and phosphate are heading fast for over £630 per tonne and that compares with little more than £200 per tonne 12 months ago. It's a global market with huge demand from China, India and Pakistan."
Another problem is that virtually no fertiliser is manufactured in the UK...
(1 May 2008)