Fertilizer and Rising Food Prices
According to an article recently published by TIME magazine, “Food prices are near historic highs, driven upward by an ever larger, ever hungrier population.” Data recently released by the United Nation’s (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which states that food currently costs 39 percent more today than it did a year ago, supports the notion that food prices are once again on the rise. Add to that the UN’s projections that the global population will increase by more than two billion people in the next 40 years and the challenge of meeting the world’s demand for safe and affordable food becomes that much more complicated.
Industry experts agree that increased food production will be achieved by intensified crop production and not by an expanded arable land base. As a result, commercial fertilizers have a critical role to play in boosting food, feed, fuel and fiber production to the levels necessary to meet the demands of a rapidly growing world population. Crop nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and secondary and micronutrients such as calcium, zinc and iron are responsible for between 40 and 60 percent of today’s total food production and will be a necessary component in producing efficient amounts of food in the future. Extensive development projects will also play an important role in supporting sustainable agricultural intensification and improved food security. According to the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA), the fertilizer industry has spent close to $40 billion on a new production capacity for all three major nutrients since 2008. IFA also estimates that another $80 billion will be invested between 2011 and 2015. These investments by the fertilizer industry are necessary to meet increasing needs for crop nutrients and in turn the anticipated food demand. In addition to contributing to meeting global food demand, the fertilizer industry is also committed to promoting science-based, sustainable fertilizer best management practices that boost crop production while minimizing impacts to the environment. Currently, the fertilizer industry is collaborating to increase awareness and adoption of the 4R nutrient stewardship concept which addresses the use of the right fertilizer source at the right time, the right rate, and right place. Data recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that between 1980 and 2010, U.S. farmers increased corn production 87.5 percent while using 4 percent fewer fertilizer nutrients during the same timeframe. It is essential to postulate the fertilizer industry’s role in meeting the challenge of escalating world demand for agricultural products. Although the factors that contribute to increasing food prices and food scarcity are complex, one thing is for sure – the use of fertilizer is a necessary component in the solution to further increase efficient and environmentally sensitive production of food for the world.