May 8, 2022
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Pro-Crisis 2023: The specter of hunger looms over Europe

Pro-Crisis 2023: The specter of hunger looms over Europe

Photo: Dirceu Portugal/ Look Press

The disruption of supply chains caused by the Ukrainian crisis could lead to a shortage of fertilizers and a decrease in crops, foreign experts say. In particular, this opinion is shared by the head of the chemical corporation Bayer AG Matthias Berninger.

“Next year we are facing one of the biggest food crises in human history,” he said.

According to the economist Matin Kaim, world hunger could affect about 100 million people. Food shortages could lead to large-scale migration, against which the 2015 crisis “will look like a summer picnic”, predicts the head of the UN World Food Program David Beasley.

The Prime Minister of Italy has similar concerns. Mario Draghi, according to which, the food crisis will affect, first of all, the countries of Africa and the Middle East.

“There is a serious risk that rising prices, combined with reduced availability of fertilizers, will cause food crises,” he said during a speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The head of the Italian Cabinet noted that in March the price index for basic foodstuffs reached a historic high and, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the number of hungry people in the world from 2022 to 2026 could increase by 13 million people. Already in 2021, 193 million people in 53 countries faced food insecurity, which, according to FAO, is 40 million more than in 2020.

The World Bank also expects a strong jump in food prices and a 70% increase in fertilizer prices this year.

“Overall, this is the biggest price shock we have experienced since the 1970s. Today’s shock is exacerbated by a sharp increase in restrictions on trade in food, fuel and fertilizer,” said World Bank Vice President Indermit Gill.

One of the reasons for the rise in food prices is fertilizers, which make up a significant part of the cost of grain, meat, vegetables and much more. Over the past six years, for example, in the United States, prices for the main types of mineral fertilizers have increased 5 times.

For European countries, mineral fertilizers supplied from Russia and Belarus are of particular importance. At the same time, the production of nitrogen fertilizers offered as a replacement requires gas, the increased prices for which make their production almost impossible. According to FAO estimates, Russia is the leading exporter of nitrogen fertilizers, the second largest supplier of potash fertilizers, and the third largest supplier of phosphate fertilizers. And although the quotas for the export of mineral fertilizers have been slightly increased by the government after the restrictions were introduced, this is unlikely to solve the problems of foreign farmers.

European politicians also do not seem to be very aware of what problems they are provoking. According to Bloomberg, as part of the sixth package of sanctions, they propose to impose restrictions on Belaruskali, the main Belarusian producer of potash fertilizers, and its export division Belarus Potash Co. In Ukraine, they decided to get ahead of European patrons in the fight against valuable goods and arrested 33 thousand tons of mineral fertilizers from Russian and Belarusian enterprises. You can understand the Ukrainian authorities: on the one hand, in the conditions of the upcoming agricultural problems in the “square” it is necessary to somehow solve the issue of productivity, on the other hand, why not sell the “stolen” goods, and even high-quality ones, at a profit.

As he said during a press conference in NSN editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Your 6 acres”, member of the public council of “Rosreestra” of the Russian Federation Andrey TumanovRussia is the world leader in the production of mineral fertilizers, has enormous resources for their production, while most of our fertilizers are considered to be of the highest quality.

“Developed countries are queuing for our fertilizers because of their purity,” he explained.

Now the world produces 190 million tons of fertilizers in the active substance. The leaders in production, in addition to Russia and Belarus, are also the USA, India, Japan, Egypt, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Canada, Indonesia.

In terms of fertilizer consumption, the leaders in the world are China, the USA, Brazil, as well as other countries where crop production is developed. Without fertilizers, this agricultural direction is inefficient, and it is impossible to obtain high-quality products.

“China uses about 300 kg of active ingredient per hectare of sown area, America – within 240 kg, in Europe – about 200 kg,” he said. soil scientist, academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, doctor of agricultural sciences Petr Chekmarev.

Now there is a struggle between the powers to become the largest agricultural producers. According to Andrey Tumanov, it depends on its results who – China, the USA, India – will become the largest producer and will dictate prices to the whole world.

In turn, Petr Chekmarev noted that those who want to produce more products should use more mineral fertilizers. For example, 1 kg of active substance gives from 5 to 10 kg of grain increase.

“In the first place in the purchase of mineral fertilizers from Russia is Brazil. They love our mineral fertilizers very much, they are used to them. Our fertilizers give good results,” he stressed.

More than 3 million tons of active ingredient fertilizers are bought in Russia by the USA and China. However, disruption of supply logistics is already having a significant impact on the planting season. To deliver 5 million tons of the active substance, 12 tons of physical weight must be transported to specific agricultural producers.

Europe’s dependence on fertilizers from Russia, according to Petr Chekmarev, is quite high.

“A large amount of mineral fertilizers is purchased by Europe. This year, the situation has developed in such a way that gas prices have risen sharply, and a large amount of gas is required for the production of nitrogen fertilizers. Many production plants have stopped, so the amount of mineral fertilizers will not be added. Imports from the Russian Federation will decrease, and this will affect crop yields, ”the scientist explained.

He also recalled that one of the first embargoes on mineral fertilizers was lifted by the United States. They understand that food production is directly dependent on the supply of fertilizers. In turn, Andrey Tumanov believes that some form of integration will remain.

“I know people who call for closing their market, it won’t work that way. There is interpenetration with Europe and the rest of the world and, most likely, it will remain, but it may take other forms. We will continue to work, otherwise everything will simply stop not only here, but also in the West. Now the United States, on the contrary, is increasing purchases for some types of products, while Europeans are leaving some markets,” Andrey Tumanov said.

According to him, American entrepreneurs say that the government cannot dictate anything to them, and they themselves act in accordance with the benefits.

In Europe, apparently, in their desire to please the United States, they forgot about their own benefit. The sowing campaign is already underway there, there is not enough fertilizer, and the ban on their purchase in Russia was introduced by another fifth package of sanctions.

“What they don’t buy and apply to the soil will affect crop yields. They will not be left without food at all, since there is natural fertility (soils – ed.), there are remnants of active substances from mineral fertilizers introduced in previous years. They will get a harvest, but much less,” says Petr Chekmarev.

He does not expect famine in Europe, but a number of products will be lacking, for example, corn. At the same time, in his opinion, we should expect a decrease in the production of grains and oilseeds, vegetables, soybeans, but they can be imported from other countries. At the same time, there will be no problems with the harvest in Russia, as the use of mineral fertilizers is growing.

“If suddenly some country finds itself without mineral fertilizers at all, then it will fall back to the agriculture of the Middle Ages or even the Roman period, to the time of Caesar: nothing was brought into the land, there was a two-field system of agriculture, when one field was sown and the other rested”, Andrey Tumanov conducted a short history course for Europeans.

He also noted that the yield will be an order of magnitude lower than now, while the cost will increase, everything will become more expensive.

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