Food, Fertilizer, Russia & You

There’s a panic getting started based on the notion that the USA get’s its fertilizer from Russia so as of now we will not have any and so there will be a massive crop failure. This Scare can only scare because it lacks any numbers. This Scare fails to scare when you look at the details.

First up, this is a Tim Pool video about it. He’s in the “gonna need food prep” group. And while I generally do agree that having some food prep is a good idea, and now especially; I’m not in the OMG! Crop Failure Looms!! group. But his video does have some good stuff in it. So watch it first, and get some scare going, then read on…

If you hit that link, you don’t get ads. But for anyone who wants the ads and provide funding to Google Gargoyle, here’s an embedded video of the same thing:

Note the “We get our fertilizer from Russia” statement. BUT: How Much? Do we make NONE ourselves?

Top Countries in Nitrogen Fertilizer Production

Metric Tons – 2002 to 2019

#	76 Countries	Metric Tons	Last	YoY	5‑years CAGR	
1	China  36,957,467.98	2019	+0.9 %	-1.4 %	View data
2	India  13,794,727.06	2019	+1.2 %	+2.1 %	View data
3	United States  11,327,557.47	2019	+1.9 %	+4.4 %	View data
4	Russia  10,368,944.16	2019	+2.4 %	+4.8 %	View data
5	Canada  3,948,980.00	2019	+1.1 %	+1.3 %	View data
6	Indonesia  3,881,847.52	2019	+1.4 %	+1.1 %	View data
7	Qatar  3,250,220.00	2019	+3.5 %	+1.8 %	View data
8	Pakistan  3,207,268.06	2019	+1.7 %	+4.1 %	View data
9	Egypt  2,606,625.00	2019	+1.3 %	-0.4 %	View data
10	Saudi Arabia  2,541,734.60	2019	+1.2 %	+4.9 %	View data
11	Netherlands  2,270,191.00	2019	+2.3 %	+3.9 %	View data
12	Poland  2,106,211.00	2019	+1.5 %	+1.6 %	View data
13	Iran  1,817,607.25	2019	+2.4 %	+6.6 %	View data
14	Oman  1,552,422.09	2019	+3.6 %	+17.7 %	View data
15	Germany  1,256,633.00	2019	+0.0 %	-0.9 %	View data
16	Algeria  1,198,086.00	2019	+7.1 %	+22.3 %	View data
17	Vietnam  1,079,510.05	2019	+3.6 %	+1.3 %	View data
18	United Arab Emirates  1,028,705.00	2019	+4.0 %	+2.0 %	View data
19	Belgium 1,023,181.00	2019	+0.7 %	-0.1 %	View data
20	Morocco  982,113.70	2019	+4.4 %	+11.4 %	View data

and on it goes for another 56 countries. Nitrogen fertilizers are bulky, heavy, and cheap. That makes shipping them expensive. It makes a LOT of sense to make the fertilizer near where it is used.

Where there is some truth in this is just that Natural Gas is a MAJOR input to making nitrogen fertilizers. Biden & Co. have driven the price of natural gas up along with all the fossil fuels. Then Russia could cut off a lot of the natural gas inputs to European fertilizer plants, so that’s a risk.

But since the USA is the 3rd largest producer in the world, I think we will have enough for our farmers. At most, exports could be cut. My best guess is that, given our farmed land is similar in size, the USA and Russia both mostly make for the domestic consumption.

The “odd man out” is China. Almost 3 x the US production. Either they use a LOT of fertilizer, or they are in the export biz. They do have about 3 x the number of people, and with the need to very intensively crop to make the food for them, it is possible they use a lot of that production domestically.


It takes more than nitrogen to fertilize a crop. I’ve not looked at phosphate nor potash in any depth. Those tend to be from wherever geography put the minerals. But for Potash it looks like Canada is the big producer:

While for phosphate it looks like the USA is in the top 3 with China #1 and the Western Sahara as #2. So not seeing a Russia issue there, either.

Note, too, that I’ve not gone down the Supply Chain to see if any of that US production depends on stuff hauled in from some other place. But I doubt it is done. It is even more expensive to ship unprocessed rocks than it is to ship the product from them. Most stuff gets refined as close to the mine as possible.

In Conclusion

Yes, we have the Scare Du Jour running about RUNNING OUT!!!! of food this time. Yes, fertilizer prices are up, but that’s from the spike in Oil & Gas costs, not Russia.

It is still a good idea to have some food prep stored, but just don’t panic about it…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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22 Responses to Food, Fertilizer, Russia & You

  1. philjourdan says:

    Covid ran its course, so now it is all things bad=Putin. Facts are the devil’s workshop to scare mongering, so must be eliminated in order for the GEBs to continue to stomp on freedoms and get the docile population to go along.

    But the population is slowly wising up. NOt the GEBs of the uniparty (they probably know it is a scam and are just trying to acquire a stake in the power game).

  2. p.g.sharrow says:

    Nitrogen is by far the critical fertilizer for maximum crop production, 10x the others. All others can be mined from the soil for several years if necessary.
    Commodity prices skyrocket even in a small shortage condition due to hoarders and speculators attempting to squeeze those in need. A small surplus will do the same in reverse. So two years ago we saw a condition where oil had a negative value during a period of supply overburden while now prices are in major over cost because there is the perception of looming serious shortages in the future.
    China claims to control 60% of the worlds grain and plan to MAXIMIZE the value of their holdings by creating the illusion of a great shortage in the worlds supply. GEBs are beating the Drums of pending starvation to create this narrative in order to maximize their benefits from the disorder that results. .

  3. philemon says:

    Interestingly, although I can’t find the comment now, someone claimed that animal feed-stock prices were going up way faster than human food (grain) prices. The new toilet paper crisis?

    Sorry, but the toilet paper shortages always struck me as fishy. Nobody “hoards” toilet paper for two weeks. It was so artificial. Not to mention all the Soviet Union anecdotes (jokes) about taking toilet paper to the dry cleaners, etc. It somehow seemed like an old Cold-Warrior CIA mindset that wouldn’t it be funny if the U$$A was toilet paper deprived.

    So now, it’s cheaper to feed animals with human grain than animal grain. Gee, where have I heard that one before. There were Soviet era anecdotes about that too. Hmm…

    In any event, if Biden’s teleprompter said it, it’s not true.

  4. John Hultquist says:

    Farmers are well into spring preparation/planting in Central Washington, USA.
    I suspect the AG-Supply places are well stocked for this season and yields will be in line with the 10-year average.
    Weather is a regional issue. Nation-wide, look for a typical year in the USA.

  5. philjourdan says:

    @Philemon – Re: TP shortage – The way it was explained to me, is that it did not start out being hoarded. However, all those office workers who had been going at the office (where you get differing grades of sandpaper that passes as TP), were now going at home, and thus increasing the usage. But that snowballed when spot shortages appeared, and snowballed into a real hoarding shortage.

    I cannot validate if that was indeed the case. Fortunately, my wife and I had enough to last us until the manufacturers got back in the business, then my wife started hoarding it! We had the crap stashed all over the house!

  6. rhoda klapp says:

    When the covid started, before the first lockdowns in the UK, it was the rule that if you had symptoms (no tests back then) you needed to isolate the household for two weeks. You might have any kind of food reserves or requirements but TP is TP, and you needed a fortnight’s worth. That’s why I bought, before the shortage, along with a range of food items which were never in short supply. When lockdowns started some foods became hard to get. Eggs and baking suppllies, as I remember. Anyhow, I ‘hoarded’ TP, as a sensible precaution against being isolated. I surmise that enough others did to break the flow in the supply chain for a week or two.

  7. Rob says:

    I think I read in comments here that the office toilet paper distribution network differed to the home one. I have never seen the very large rolls in someone’s home or the local supermarket. When people stopped going in the office and started at home, that will have increased demand for the home style stuff. Also advice in this site was not to forget toilet paper. Who wants to die because they needed to go out and get more toilet paper? More spiking demand creating the fear and resulting hoarding.

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    Anyone remember the Great TP Shortage of the ’70s?

    The TP supply is balanced for “Just In Time” delivery to keep the supermarkets shelves stocked, but only a palate or 3 in the warehouse for dispatch to whomever runs low that day. So on the Tonight Show, Johnny Carson made a joke about TP Shortage and how that might end up a bad thing… Overnight, people all over the country ran to the market and bought a couple of weeks or months supply.

    This, of course, emptied the shelves. Empty shelves lead to news reports of The Great TP Shortage, which caused more folks to go buy what was on offer.

    This “Shortage” went on for a couple of weeks as the supply process caught up with the excess demand. Then it ended.

    So something as simple as a joke about not wanting the consequences of running out of TP can cause a TP “Shortage”. (IIRC, the joke was something along the lines of “How about that Gasoline Shortage (from the Arab Embargo). What’s next, Toilet Paper? (comical distressed face look).”

    Oh, there’s articles about it:


    It started with a press release from a politician, as these things sometimes do. It was late 1973. Richard Nixon was still president, elected in a landslide the year before. The country faced a decent smorgasbord of problems: the war in Vietnam continued, the stock market took a drastic drop, prices were starting to rise unpredictably, and there was a growing concern over an energy crisis, particularly petroleum-based energy, particularly gasoline for cars. A rationing system was created. Logically, some people wondered what was next.

    One of the people raising a red flag that year was Congressman Harold V. Froehlich (R-Wis.), according to Snopes. Lots of lumber products in the economy of Wisconsin, and therefore paper products. He determined that pulp paper was being exported to avoid taxes, causing a shortage of some commercial products. Like commercial toilet paper. He put out a couple of cautionary press releases — “The United States may” — emphasis added — “face a serious shortage of toilet paper within a few months,” he said.
    This evening’s was no exception. As quoted by Mental Floss: “Of all the shortages we have … You know what else is disappearing from the supermarket shelves? Toilet paper! Ah, ha, ha! You can laugh now! There is an acute shortage of toilet paper in the good old United States. We gotta quit writing on it.” Funny stuff.
    And the people who seemed to have missed the memo about “He’s kidding, folks,” began to buy the product in earnest. And in bulk. The shelves were cleared, people were hoarding, and jaws across the country dropped in disbelief. There was no actual shortage. Industry spokesfolks issued statements and interviews and tried to reassure panicking consumers. According to The Atlantic, the shortage lasted four months before the buying public calmed down, partly because the following January, Carson again addressed the tissue — er, issue — basically saying, “kidding, folks,” and adding, “For all my life in entertainment, I don’t want to be remembered as the man who created a false toilet paper scare.” Too late.

  9. philemon says:

    @philjourdan: “Fortunately, my wife and I had enough to last us until the manufacturers got back in the business…”

    Yep, same here. But… I wouldn’t rule out some fiddling. Walmart online had toilet paper, but local stores were out for months? There was no hoarding, because there was no TP to hoard. They were getting no shipments for months.

    People around here weren’t scared of dying if they went grocery shopping, most people were not working from home, TP usage at work was negligible, and in all the hurricane/snowstorm events in the past, when power might be out for a week or so, no TP shortages.

    Just sayin’.

  10. philemon says:

    @E.M.Smith : “Anyone remember the Great TP Shortage of the ’70s?”

    Nope. Two weeks? What I do remember is that our TP matched our shower curtains. Which reminds me, when did our toilet paper become so boring?

    My BIL’s mother, who was just a simple sweet southern lady, used to buy a package of paper towels every time she went grocery shopping because it was on her list. Her husband, being gentlemanly, never criticized her habit, but just stacked the paper towels in the garage. My BIL was astonished, when, upon helping them move, he found the garage half full of paper towel packages.

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    We typically buy a Monster Pack at Costco, Walmart, or “wherever” and then buy another when it is down to about 2 weeks worth. i.e. a few rolls. Seems to work out ok. iff The Great AwShit happens with just a few rolls left, well, there’s that well worn hand cloth and a pan of bleach water…

  12. Graeme No.3 says:

    Fertiliser shortage? Go Organic. The output from Government would make you self sufficient for years. (Avoid Presidential output as that is contaminated with green sprouts).

  13. Ossqss says:

    Seems nobody noticed India’s massive bounty, again this year.

  14. Ossqss says:

    Is it just me, or am I just seeing something that looks oddly staged in progress with this conflict, or is Russia just that bad at it?

    I just see too many things that don’t make military sense, but yet help the media keep on the HD air for such. With good lighting!

  15. jim2 says:

    Graeme No.3 – it’s worse than that. The output of our President Puddin-head is contaminated with brown blobs.

  16. watersider says:

    All those TP and fertilizer stories reminds me of a certain Minister for Agriculture who always used the expression ‘manure’ in his speeches about farming.
    One commentator asked his wife why she did not get him to modify his language and call it ‘fertilizer’.
    She, replied ‘Look sonny, it’s taken me twenty years to get him to call it Manure’

  17. Phil Younger says:

    I have been in Ag in one form or another all my 67 years. We are not going to be starving from fertilizer shortage this year- nor will there be a crop failure though a reduction in output will be recognized if farmers determine the incremental gain in late season additions of N will not justify the added yield. By this time virtually all P and K (phosphorus and potassium) is laid into fertilizer dealer and wholesale inventory. In prime soils such a the plains of IL and Iowa- P, K, and maybe 1/3 of N was applied last fall since that gets that process out of the way of spring planting. (Those soils have great nutrient bonding characteristics). Soybeans & alfalfa need no nitrogen- they are legumes that fix their own N. Some livestock operations still exist- they provide natural fertilizers to surrounding farmland.
    Nitrogen is a bit different in dealer inventories. Typical dealers will only have on hand 1/3 of the growing season inventory or less. Some nitrogen is applied at planting for non-legume crops- dealer inventory will come close to being enough for the pre-plant/planting needs. Farmers will watch the N price (if they did not prebook) and spoon feed N on thru the season- last N applications likely July for corn.
    Grain prices were already up due to problems in South America and low US grain inventories. The fact that Ukraine and fertilizer prices have further supported grain prices will cause modest pullback in use of grains and cause modest pullback in fertilizer use (farm/golf/home lawn). The markets work.
    The struggle will be for the poor who cannot afford this inflation.
    Next year’s crop will be the one to watch- not so much this one.
    One thing you can be assured of- the hawkers of narratives will be busy. Oil boys will demand EPA to reduce ethanol. Greenies will say we have to go all electric now. Greenies will swear the whole farm system must be uprooted. Politicians will not let a “crisis” go to waste.

  18. p.g.sharrow says:

    Ossqss says;”Is it just me, or am I just seeing something that looks oddly staged in progress with this conflict, or is Russia just that bad at it? ”

    Interesting observation, I spent much of last night viewing on the ground reporting and evaluating of what I learned.
    Does the Russian really suck at this?…… Basically, Yes
    Russia is a Third World country maintaining the Illusion of being a Super Power. They have a very large, poorly trained and equipped military with a veneer of well trained units using sophisticated weapons.
    Their political structure prevents Putin from calling on all of the Russian Military to carry out his adventures of conquest, so he is limited in what he can actually do.

    The planned cake walk of Liberation of Ukraine from it’s Oligarchs by the Boss of bosses of the Russian Oligarchs has collided with Ukrainian Patriots. The Russians are surrounded and are losing.
    this contest. Small units of well motivated Ukrainians equipped with the latest western small smart weapons are bleeding the much larger Russian units reducing the Russian advantage in weapons and breaking the Russian troops morale, poor training and supply adds to the Russian troops misery as well as the bad weather and ground conditions. Russian units are now “advancing in a different direction” in an attempt to protect their gains in the eastern regions. This war of conquest was sold to the Russians as a operation of Liberation of their oppressed brothers by Putin, but the reality is now evident in world opinion and rapidly multiplying body bags. The Russian people are no longer happy with Putin and Company.

    Western politicians want the Ukrainians to give up to preserve their illusion of peace with Russia, but for Ukraine there is only one acceptable conclusion, All of Russia out of all of Ukraine.

  19. philemon says:

    @watersider: “One commentator asked his wife why she did not get him to modify his language and call it ‘fertilizer’.

    “She, replied ‘Look sonny, it’s taken me twenty years to get him to call it Manure’…”

    Now, that one I do remember!

  20. philjourdan says:

    @EM – Yep! Remember that one well. Still laugh about it. And fortunately can about the one last year as well.

  21. Ted1 says:

    It’s the crops in Russia and Ukraine that we need to worry about. If they fail to get produced and delivered because of this war there will be hell to pay. Even the US will notice.

  22. E.M.Smith says:


    I suspect it is the Muslim World and south eastern Europe that will suffer from lack of Russian & Ukrainian wheat. They use a lot of imported wheat and have little spare money to bid for higher prices. Wealthy Western Europe and wheat exporters like the USA, Canada, Australia will hardly notice a price bump (unles someone once again lets foreigners buy it all like the USSR did in about the late ’70s… )

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