With the world in the midst of an energy and climate crisis, prices for chemical fertilisers are skyrocketing, putting food production at severe risk in many places. While farmers and governments are scrambling to try and cope with the added costs, fertiliser corporations are using their market power to capture mega profits, a new report by GRAIN and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy finds that farmers and governments in the G20 spent $21.8 billion more on key fertilisers imports in 2021 and 2022, while the world’s biggest fertiliser companies are expected to make almost US$84 billion profit over the same period.
The response so far from many governments to the escalating prices is to look for ways to increase chemical fertiliser production. Not surprisingly, this is also the solution that the world’s largest fertiliser companies are promoting. But increased production of chemical fertilisers will not resolve this crisis. The era of cheap fertilisers is over. The costs have become too much to bear— both in terms of the financial burden for farmers and public budgets, the severe environmental and health impacts, and the long-term risks to food security. But there are ways out of this apparent dead end.