World News

UN pushes for cut in global fertilizer prices to avoid ‘future crisis’

GENEVA — The United Nations is pushing to cut the price of fertilizers to avoid a “future crisis” of availability, said a senior U.N. trade official who is involved in talks aimed at boosting the export of Russian fertilizers, including ammonia.

Russia’s has fueled a global food crisis and soaring fertilizer prices, according to the United Nations. Russia and Ukraine are key global exporters of grain, while Russia is also one of the largest exporters of fertilizers.

“If we are not able to bring fertilizer prices down, the crisis of affordability that we have today will be a crisis of availability tomorrow, and that is what we are working on right now,” said Rebeca Grynspan, secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

“To avert a future crisis, we need to bring fertilizer prices down,” she told reporters in Geneva.

Russia is one of the world’s largest suppliers of potash, phosphate and nitrogen fertilizers — key crop and soil nutrients — producing 13% of the global total. Fertilizer exports from Russia in the first half of 2022.

Facilitating Russia’s food and fertilizer exports is a central aspect of a package deal brokered by the U.N. and Turkey on July 22 that also restarted Ukraine’s Black Sea grain and fertilizer shipments. Russia has criticized the deal, complaining that its exports were still hindered.

The deal included ammonia — a key ingredient in nitrate fertilizer. A from Russia’s Volga region to Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Pivdennyi (Yuzhny) was shut down when Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

The U.N. is now trying to broker a resumption of those ammonia exports.

But since talks started, Russia has moved to annex Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions after holding what it called referendums — votes that were denounced by Kyiv and Western governments as illegal and coercive.

Ms. Grynspan declined to comment on the ammonia negotiations, describing the situation to Reuters as “too sensitive.” She added that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had tried to call her while she was in the news conference.

“We need to get it right and bring prices down,” she said. — Reuters