Russia and China Have a Stranglehold on the World’s Food Security – by Alan Crawford, Frank Jomo, Elizabeth Elkin and Matthew Bristow (Bloomberg News – February 19, 2023)

(Bloomberg) — The cargo trapped for months at the Dutch port of Rotterdam was so precious that the United Nations intervened to mediate its release. The World Food Programme chartered a ship to transport it to Mozambique, from where it’s being taken by truck through the interior to its end destination, Malawi. It’s not grain or maize, but 20,000 metric tons of Russian fertilizer, and it can’t come soon enough.

About 20% of Malawi’s population is projected to face acute food insecurity during the “lean season” through March, making the use of fertilizers to grow crops all the more vital. It’s one of 48 nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America identified by the International Monetary Fund as most at risk from the shock to food and fertilizer costs fanned by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

One year on, the upheaval caused to world fertilizer markets is seen by the UN as a key risk to food availability in 2023. Yet alongside humanitarian considerations, it’s the realization that much of the world relies on just a few nations for most of its fertilizers — notably Russia, its ally Belarus and China — that’s ringing alarm bells in global capitals.

Just as semiconductors have become a lightning rod for geopolitical friction, so the race for fertilizers has alerted the US and its allies to a strategic dependency for an agricultural input that is a key determinant of food security.

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