Disrupted Fertilizer Supply Worsens World Food Crisis
The current food condition globally is improving compared to a few months ago, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February. However, the availability of fertilizer is still continuing to decrease.
FRANSISCA ROMANA, FROM NEW YORK, USA
·5 menit baca
NEW YORK, KOMPAS — The 77th United Nations General Assembly’s discussions have been dominated by the issue of food crisis, with the worrisome concern that the disrupted supply chain of fertilizers may affect at least 2 billion people, mostly in Asia, due to the prospect of rice harvest failure.
Food security and supply of fertilizers was also the main topic of discussions between Indonesia and several participating delegations in the annual event, which will run from 19 to 26 Sept., New York, the United States.
In general, the current food condition globally is improving compared to a few months ago, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February. However, the availability of fertilizer is still continuing to decrease due to various sanctions from the US and its Western allies against the Russian invasion.
During the Global Food Security Summit on Tuesday (20/9/2022) in New York, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said that various aspects related to food security issues had burdened all countries, some of which were worse impacted. About 200 million people in 53 countries are now experiencing acute hunger and around 26 million children are at risk of malnutrition.
“In a nutshell, the food crisis is a global problem that requires global solutions. Indonesia's Group of Twenty (G20) presidency puts the issue of food security as the main topic," she said.
She warned failure to deal with the fertilizer issue would lead to a worsening food situation, with at least 2 billion people feared to be impacted by the ensuing decline in rice harvests due to strained distribution of fertilizers.
I have made a specific appeal; we must address the fertilizer issue. If [we] fail, the world's food situation will be even worse next year.
Exports of Russian fertilizers, especially the manufacturing ingredients, are still facing barriers due to Western sanctions. Russia is the world’s main producer of potassium, phosphate and nitrogen, which are the ingredients of fertilizers. Its production reaches 50 million tonnes per year, which accounts for 13 percent of global production.
There are currently exports of food and fertilizers from Russian ports, but the amount is still very small. The US has excluded food and fertilizers from the sanctions. However, Russia said the sanctions had an impact on the shipment of these products.
“I have made a specific appeal; we must address the fertilizer issue. If [we] fail, the world's food situation will be even worse next year," Retno said.
Referring to a study by McKinsey, the foreign minister said the Russia-Ukraine war had caused a drop in global wheat production by 15-20 million metric tonnes in 2022. By 2023, the decline is estimated to be even greater, namely 23-40 million metric tonnes.
While calling for continued mediation efforts to help end the war immediately, Retno expected countries to be considerate in their actions so as not to exacerbate the food crisis. “We need to expand access to and affordability of food by increasing food production, releasing food reserves and reducing trade barriers. All of that needs to be done in a coordinated, measurable and proportional way," she said.
She reiterated her call for countries to strengthen their food security system on the backdrop of the global food system’s evident vulnerability to the current crisis. In the long term, she said, countries would need to build resilience capacity against food shocks, increase food-buffer stocks, enhance investment in the agricultural technology sector and commit to sustainable agriculture.
Retno continued to bring up the issue of fertilizer and food in her talks with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, head of the UN humanitarian affairs coordinator Martin Griffiths, and UN assembly’s trade and development head Rebecca Grynspan. As a co-chair of the Global Food Security Summit, Retno hopes Indonesia's input on the fertilizer issue will be included in the declaration.
Another major concern is the impact of high gas prices on the production of nitrogen fertilizers. This must also be addressed seriously.
In his opening speech to the 77th UN General Assembly, Guterres also raised the issue of fertilizers which he said would exacerbate the world food crisis if not addressed immediately. “To ease the global food crisis, we now must urgently address the global fertilizer market crunch. This year, the world has enough food; the problem is distribution. But if the fertilizer market is not stabilized, next year’s problem might be food supply itself. We already have reports of farmers in West Africa and beyond cultivating fewer crops because of the price or lack of availability of fertilizers,” he said.
Guterres added that it was essential to continue removing all remaining obstacles to the export of Russian fertilizers and their ingredients, including ammonia. These products are not subject to Western sanctions.
Last week, Guterres met Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss Ukraine's grain exports in the Black Sea. He was hopeful the wheat export initiative would be expanded to include ammonia. A pipeline transporting ammonia from Russia's Volga region to Ukraine's Black Sea port of Pivdennyi was shut down when Russia invaded Ukraine. The UN is now looking to broker a resumption of those ammonia exports.
Guterres also saw another big problem in the impact of escalating gas prices on nitrogen production for fertilizers, which needed to be taken seriously. “Without action now, the global fertilizer shortage will quickly turn into a global food shortage,” he said.