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IN NEED OF K

The Russia-Ukraine war is set to make Brazil’s fertilizer shortage worse

A tractor spreading fertilizer on a field.
REUTERS/Adriano Machado
A tractor spreading fertilizer on a soybean field in Brazil.
  • Clarisa Diaz
By Clarisa Diaz

Things Reporter

Published Last updated

Farmers in Brazil were already facing a fertilizer shortage. Now that Russia has invaded Ukraine the pressure to find suppliers is even higher to avoid a shortage in 2022.

Brazil is the largest importer of fertilizer in the world. Its top supplier is Russia—providing Brazil 22% of its imports. In October 2021, Russian fertilizer exports were restricted, following a fear of a shortage. The smaller export supply led to higher prices. In fact, right before the invasion, Brazilian authorities were in Russia trying to negotiate a deal. Now with war and sanctions, Brazil’s buyers may need to look elsewhere.

How much fertilizer comes from Russia

The type of fertilizer Brazil imports is a mixture of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium known as NPK. Farmers rely on the potassium, to prevent diseases in their fields. In Brazil, it’s used to grow soybean, coffee, and other crops. Soybeans are the biggest money-maker for Brazil, the majority going to China, and shortages could reverse recent gains in the relationship’s growth.

Brazil’s main exports of food and agriculture

Soybeans

Brazil’s soy bean exports go almost entirely to China. China relies on Brazil for 63% of its soybean imports.

Cane sugar

China is also the largest foreign buyer of Brazilian cane sugar. China relies on Brazil for 70% of its cane sugar imports.

Corn

Brazil is Egypt’s third-biggest corn supplier but that may change. Before the invasion, Egypt imported 26% of its corn from Ukraine, just ahead of 25% from Brazil.

Unroasted coffee

Coffee is the most important agricultural product from Brazil for Americans. The US imports 25% of its coffee from Colombia and 24% from Brazil. If a shortage of fertilizer leads to a shortage of coffee beans, Americans can expect coffee prices to get higher.

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