How a Fertilizer Shortage Is Spreading Desperate Hunger – by Peter S. Goodman (New York Times – October 15, 2023)

Across Africa and in parts of Asia, disruption to the supply chain for fertilizer is raising food prices and increasing malnutrition.

Suleiman Chubado is not entirely clear what caused the price of fertilizer to more than double over the past year, but he is bitterly aware of the consequences. At his farm in northeastern Nigeria, he can no longer afford enough fertilizer, so his corn is stunted and pale, the scraggly plants bending toward the powdery earth.

Inside his mud house, he has grown accustomed to explaining to his two young children and pregnant wife why they must make do with two meals a day — and sometimes only one — even as hunger gnaws. As he and his neighbors commiserate over the calamity unfolding across much of Africa, they exchange theories on one source of trouble: Russia’s war on Ukraine, which disrupted shipments of key ingredients for fertilizer.

“We are in two different worlds, separated by airplanes and oceans,” Mr. Chubado said. “How can it be affecting us here?” That question is reverberating in many lower-income countries. Farmers are grappling with shocks that made fertilizer scarce and unaffordable, diminishing harvests, raising food prices and spreading hunger.

The war in Ukraine reduced the region’s grain exports and sent the price of staples like wheat soaring from Egypt to Indonesia. The world’s food supply is also menaced by the ravages of climate change — heat waves, drought, floods.

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