Down and Dirty: The Global Fertilizer Dilemma

Feeding the world's eight billion people has never been easy. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine shocked the market for fertilizer, that task has gotten even harder. The fertilizer crisis threatens to exacerbate food insecurity worldwide, especially in low-income countries already reeling from record-high inflation and rapidly depreciating currencies. What is fertilizer’s role in the food supply chain?

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  • Gabrielle Sierra
    Director, Podcasting
Episode Guests
  • Michelle Gavin
    Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies
  • Laura Cross

Show Notes

Prior to its invasion of Ukraine, Russia was the world’s largest producer of fertilizer. Amid a deluge of Western sanctions, affordable fertilizer has become another casualty of the war. 


Fertilizer is like a vitamin for plants; it contains ingredients that help them grow. With less fertilizer, farmers cannot grow as many crops, reducing the global food supply. The price of fertilizer has more than tripled since the war began, worsening food shortages in low-income countries, many of which depend on agriculture for food security. Some fertilizer-producing countries, such as Canada, have stepped in to fill the gap left by Russia; others, such as China, have moved to restrict fertilizer exports. Meanwhile, U.S. officials have raised concerns about the environmental effects of energy-intensive fertilizer production. Will disruption to the fertilizer market exacerbate the growing global food crisis?



From CFR


Kali Robinson, “How Russia’s War in Ukraine Could Amplify Food Insecurity in the Mideast



From Our Guests


Laura Cross, “Five Fertilizer Market Dynamics That Tell the Story of 2022,” International Fertilizer Association


Michelle Gavin, “East Africa’s Growing Food Crisis: What to Know,”



Read More


Douglas Broom, “This Is How War in Europe Is Disrupting Fertilizer Supplies and Threatening Global Food Security,” World Economic Forum


Bartosz Brzeziński and Eddy Wax, “‘Enormous’ Fertilizer Shortage Spells Disaster for Global Food Crisis,” Politico


Nick Young, “Sri Lanka’s Fertilizer Ban and Why New Zealand Can Phase Out Synthetic Nitrogen Fertilizer,”



Watch and Listen


Global Fertilizer Crisis Threatens Food Security,” Bloomberg

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