The FAO has further established that world hunger has increased significantly due to the onset of the novel coronavirus outbreak, creating a substantial roadblock to the Zero Hunger target set for 2030 under the Sustainable Development Goal. Furthermore, the growing levels of carbon dioxide in the environment are also impacting the nutritional value of some foods.

In this situation, the access of farmers to essential agricultural inputs such as fertilizers has become a vital consideration for food security. Since plants are primary nutrient sources for people as well as animals, improvement in the availability of minerals and other nutrients in the soil has become one of the major driving forces behind the ever-increasing demand for farm fertilizers. Based on a Global Market Insights Inc report, the fertilizer market is set to cross USD 240 billion by 2030.

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Private and public initiatives to address key challenges in agricultural supply chains

Crops require various essential nutrients and minerals for healthy growth, a need that is being fulfilled by advanced fertilizer formulations. In recent times, food systems across the globe are facing significant challenges due to ongoing events such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict, as well as residual impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on agricultural supply chains. One of these challenges is the dramatic rise in fertilizer prices, which has the potential to disrupt agricultural production considerably.

These issues have shed light on the importance of investments, not just from governments, but also from the private sector, in improving farm fertilizer production and eventually restoring agricultural output.

To that end, in March 2022 the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) announced its support for additional production of fertilizers, in order to empower farmers in the U.S. to address increasing costs and other impacts of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on farming activities. The USDA has committed USD 250 million through a grant program, aimed at facilitating innovative, sustainable, and independent fertilizer production in the U.S. to improve American farmers’ access to advanced fertilizer formulations.

Likewise, in May 2022, the AfDB (African Development Bank) initiated discussions with various international partners, including Morocco-based fertilizer industry leader OCP Group, to boost the emergency supply of farm fertilizers. As part of its strategy to circumvent a looming food security crisis by delivering half a million tons of fertilizers across West Africa by August 2022, AfDB has offered funding worth nearly $1.5 billion to reduce disruptions in the commodities sector worldwide and, in turn, offset the potential impact of these disturbances on fertilizer prices.

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Organic fertilizer formulations play a key role in transition to sustainable agricultural ecosystem

At present, one of the key matters being addressed in climate discussions at the United Nations is the burgeoning climate crisis. Agriculture is one of the main areas of focus in this case, a trend that has driven many industry players to seek more productive ways to build resilience against impending climate shocks, whilst mitigating waste and reliance on non-renewable agricultural inputs, including inorganic fertilizers.

According to a research summary presented jointly by Greenpeace, GRAIN, and IATP in November 2021 on fertilizer-based emissions, synthetic nitrogen fertilizers were found to represent nearly 2.4% of global emissions, as well as over 20% of direct emissions from the agriculture sector. In this situation, the development of sustainable alternatives to synthetic fertilizers has become imperative, contributing significantly to organic fertilizer market growth in recent years.

Increasing research interest and innovations by key fertilizer industry players have brought organic fertilizer ingredients to new stages of development, making their contribution to sustainable agriculture more profound and scalable.

In September 2021, The Andersons, Inc. introduced a new organic liquid fertilizer brand, called PureStart, designed specifically for use as a high-phosphorous row starter in organic crop cultivation. Developed using naturally-sourced components like steamed bone meal, the innovative formulation contained nearly 9% phosphorous, making it capable of positive response in cold soils, better root growth, faster emergence of crops, maximum harvest yield, and overall improvement in crop quality.

According to the IFA (International Fertilizer Association), fertilizers play a substantial role in mitigating micronutrient deficiencies in people, through the fortification of staple food crops with essential nutrients like selenium, zinc, and iodine, to name a few. Nitrogen fertilizer alone has been estimated to facilitate food production for nearly half of the worldwide population. With the growing burden of population explosion on the already-stressed agricultural system, the fertilizer industry could likely emerge as a key tool in the gradual transition to a more robust and sustainable farming ecosystem in the years to come.

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