Farmers and gardeners hardly get any fertilizer. You have to choose between a crop failure or higher prices. In developing countries there is even a threat of famine.

Artificial fertilizer is twice as expensive as normal.

Now there is a threat of price explosion at vegetables; se, fruits and garden plants

Many farmers now have to choose between poor harvests or higher prices.

Now there is a threat of an explosion in prices for vegetables, fruits and garden plants

Due to the high demand, it is hardly possible to switch to organic fertilizers such as liquid manure.

That's what

  • The fertilizer producers have cut down on their production due to high energy prices.

  • That is why fertilizer has become a scarce commodity worldwide.

  • Now the fruit and vegetable producers are announcing higher prices.

The market for artificial fertilizers is in crisis. Because gas prices have exploded, the fertilizer manufacturers cut production (see box). Fertilizer is now in short supply and accordingly costs a lot. Because this makes growing food more expensive, the World Bank is warning of an excessive rise in food prices.

The crisis is also affecting Switzerland. Because there are no fertilizer producers in the country, we are dependent on other countries. “We are struggling to get fertilizer and are paying more than twice as much as a few months ago,” says Hansueli Schaufelberger from the Swiss fertilizer supplier Landor.

Switching to natural fertilizers is only possible to a limited extent. “The demand for slurry and dung is very high,” says Schaufelberger.

Gas prices are rising by 700 percent

One of the key ingredients in nitrogen fertilizers is ammonia, which is made from natural gas. But gas prices rose 700 percent in international markets last year. The reason for this is, among other things, the great demand since the relaxation of the Corona measures. Because of the high gas prices, many chemical companies shut down the production of nitrogen fertilizer, now the demand for fertilizer is enormous worldwide.

The Swiss specialty fertilizer supplier Hauert also felt the shortage and had to increase prices. “Because of the high demand and the scarce supply, it is difficult to get the goods,” says a spokeswoman.

At the moment it is enough because the season has not yet started. “But we don't know what it will look like in two months if gardeners and farmers buy fertilizer at the same time,” said the spokeswoman.

Higher prices for potatoes, wheat , Sugar beet or vegetables

The farmers are happy that the federal government is now releasing compulsory fertilizer storage due to the tense supply situation (see box). “That gives you short-term relaxation,” says Martin Rufer, Director of the Swiss Farmers' Association, for 20 minutes.

Compulsory fertilizer store open

The Department of Economics, Education and Research (WBF) has decided to release the fertilizer into compulsory stocks on January 15th. Switzerland has a total of 17,000 tonnes of pure nitrogen in compulsory stocks. According to the WBF, this would not be enough for the entire season, but it should ensure an initial fertilization of the crops, which is important for growth in spring, as it is called on request. If the missing quantities cannot be covered with imports in the medium term, reduced harvest yields can be expected.

But if the prices for artificial fertilizers remain so high, consumers will feel it too in the end. “The producer prices for potatoes, wheat, sugar beets and vegetables have to rise so that the producers can cover the costs,” says Rufer. How strong the price increase will be depends on how long the fertilizer shortage will last.

The Association of Swiss Vegetable Producers also assumes that the prices for vegetables will now rise. «The vegetable producers will probably have to pass on the increased production costs», says the deputy director Markus Waber on request.

Harvest losses or additional costs

The price explosion is also affecting fruit growers. You would now have to weigh up between significant additional costs for the fertilizer or a possible loss of harvest with reduced fertilization, says the Swiss Fruit Association.

It is also more expensive for some gardeners, says Josef Poffet, Head of Production and Trade at the Gardeners Association Jardinsuisse. Matthias Dietrich from Blumenmarkt Dietrich is currently experiencing price increases on the part of manufacturers in many product ranges, as he says on request. Jürg Gerber, Managing Director of Lamprecht Pflanzen AG, also expects a general price increase.

At Migros, when asked, the retailer tries not to pass price increases on to customers whenever possible. However, given the challenging situation, this is not always possible. For example, price increases for durum wheat cannot be ruled out. The supply of the population is not endangered, the warehouses are well stocked.

Abroad it's a matter of life and death

The situation abroad is much more tense. China and Russia cut exports drastically. In India, the synthetic nutrient is now on the black market. The French farmers' association reported that not all farmers will have enough artificial fertilizer for the coming season.

The head of the Norwegian fertilizer manufacturer Yara warned the media of a food crisis and famine. “Vulnerable people are hit very hard,” said Svein Tore Holsether. For some people, especially in developing countries, it is a matter of life or death.

Use fertilizer more sparingly

Agricultural expert Urs Niggli can still take something good from the fertilizer crisis . The director of the Institute for Agroecology expects positive effects from the more expensive artificial fertilizer price. “In agriculture, arable farming and vegetable growing, a lot was put on artificial fertilizers, but now organic fertilizers such as manure, compost and liquid manure are becoming more attractive,” says Niggli.

In addition, some of the fertilizers are lost into the environment. “Now the fertilizer is being used more sparingly,” says Niggli. Another positive thing about rising food prices is that less food is thrown away.

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By Teresa Tapmleton

Teresa Tampleton has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Nizh TEkegram, Teresa Tampleton worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teresa@ntelegram.com 1-800-268-7341

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