Food Prices May Spike Again, Thanks to a New Shortage

Nitrogen fertilizer is in short supply
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 28, 2021 6:15 AM CST
Farmers' New Struggle: a Fertilizer Shortage
File photo of a nitrogen plant in Enid, Okla.   (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Farmers have no shortages of things to worry about, and Reuters reports that a major new concern has joined the list this year: Nitrogen fertilizer is in short supply, and its cost is skyrocketing as a result. This could not only translate into higher prices in everything from bread to meat in the coming months, but the shortage is forcing farmers to make dicey gambles about the fall and upcoming spring planting season. A slew of factors are behind the shortage, including record low temperatures in Texas earlier this year and Hurricane Ida's slamming of production facilities in Louisiana in August, per the Weather Channel. A post at Ag Week, meanwhile, blames "a rare combination of supply chain issues that have tightened supplies," including high prices for natural gas, a key component in the fertilizer.

“Right now, we have an almost a perfect storm of high energy prices, China cutting its production because of higher energy prices, as well," agricultural economist John Beghin of the University of Nebraska tells Ag Web. "In Europe, they're suffering through very high gas prices. Then we have supply disruptions in the US." American farmers typically pay for fertilizer upfront, and the high price is causing many to put off purchases until the spring. That raises the risk of an even tighter shortage then, with accompanying higher prices. On top of that, holding off until then makes the logistics of spring planting much more difficult to navigate. "There's going to be a lot of people who wait and see," Daren Coppock of the Agricultural Retailers Association tells Reuters. "(But) if everybody's scrambling in the spring to get enough, somebody's corn isn't going to get covered." (More fertilizer stories.)

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