Fighting the Food and Fertiliser Crisis

By Sunny Lewis for MaxImpact

The May 20 issue of The Economist forecasted a foreboding future of mass hunger and malnutrition from a battered global food system dependent on wheat from Russia and Ukraine. Together, these two countries produce nearly 30 per cent of the world’s traded wheat where 26 countries around the world get more than half their supplies.

Further, these two countries, along with Russia’s sanctioned ally Belarus, also supply vast amounts of fertiliser, and continued disruption could set off an agricultural time bomb leading to a global food catastrophe. Food and fertiliser prices were at record highs even before Russia invaded Ukraine in February, and now a confluence of factors driven by the skyrocketing price of natural gas is setting a perfect storm for food scarcity.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) recently has redoubled its commitment to development assistance by announcing more than $750 million in new funding to address the global food security emergency, malnutrition, and agricultural development. Much of this funding will be provided to African nations, where price shocks and rampant inflation resulting from Mr Putin’s war are having devastating affects on food security. USAID is seeking private sector solutions to scale access to, and availability of, agricultural inputs, technologies, and food, in response to the shocks from the ongoing war.

Could there be a silver lining in this gloomy cloud leading to more sustainable global food security in the future by farming the sea? Consider that ocean seaplant (seaweed) crops provide beneficial ecosystem services, do not require precious freshwater or land usage, and are a renewable resource not requiring fertiliser. Seaplants also absorb carbon dioxide and mitigate ocean acidification – the evil twins of climate change.

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