Fertiliser costs affect global grain production

East Brookton wheat crop. Photo supplied: Sarah Walters

With fuel prices at a record high and fertiliser expenses continuing to soar, the cost of production is hitting Australian farmers hard.

The three big input costs for farmers include fuel, fertiliser and chemicals, with fertiliser being the largest, according to WAFarmers chief executive Trevor Whittington.

Mr Whittington says rising prices are forcing Australian farmers to cut down on production. 

“From the millions of people who’ve got one acre farms, to the thousands of people who’ve got tens of thousands of acre farms, they will be cutting back their fertiliser inputs, which means global grain production will be cut,” Mr Whittington says.

He says the lack of global grain production will cause grain prices to jump, meaning Australians will have to fork out even more money to eat.

“The price of grain will go up, which means the 10 per cent of the world’s population, 700 million approximately, which are seriously food insecure and don’t get enough, will go even hungrier.”

Trevor Whittington

The current war between Ukraine and Russia, as well as China cancelling exportation, is making it difficult for Australia to import fertiliser.

“There’s uncertainty with Belarus and Ukraine also being big producers and it’s hard to get. China’s stopped exporting to particularly a domestic market. So, it just continues to push the price up,” Mr Whittington says.

Wheatbelt farmer Sarah Walters says, due to Russia being large suppliers, the amount of fertiliser the farm buys has decreased.

She says due to the combination of increased fertiliser prices such as urea, which is 46 per cent nitrogen, at $700 per tonne (120 per cent increase from last year), limited supply from Russia and trade sanctions with Russia, she could not afford to buy as much this year.

Miss Walters says the lack of fertiliser will alter the quality and quantity of their crops, causing the business to lose money.

“Decreased amounts of fertiliser to provide crops and pastures with optimal nutrition during critical germination and tillering growth stages will inhibit full potential yield and quality. Ultimately this will reduce the amount of crop yield per hectare and decrease the amount of pasture available for livestock grazing.”

Kristy (right), Bevan and Sarah Walters at their family farm in East Brookton. Photo supplied: Sarah Walters.

A cheaper alternative for farmers could be organic farming, though it would increase food prices for consumers.

“Historically, we’ve all been organic farmers. Modern industrial fertilisers only kicked in, in the early 20s and 30s. We can certainly feed the rich, but the poor will starve,” says Mr Whittington

Categories: General