The global fertilizer shortage is pushing farmers to poop-based products

A liquid manure tank filled with dairy manure in Ontario.
A liquid manure tank filled with dairy manure in Ontario.
Image: Husky Farm Equipment Ltd./Handout via REUTERS
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Pandemic supply chain shocks compounded by the war in Ukraine have caused a global shortage of chemical fertilizers. With no end to the war in sight and spring planting season in full swing in the northern hemisphere, farmers are turning to animal and plant waste instead. Manure suppliers in particular are selling out. There’s not enough manure to meet the demand of farmers in the US. The pressure is being felt globally, with farmers in the UK even opting to buy treated human sewage sludge.

While domestic supply sells out, manure is also traded across borders. Trade has increased since the pandemic. Top importers are the US, France, and the Netherlands.

Who imports manure

Fertilizers containing potassium, are what farmers are scrambling for. Potassic fertilizers are used and imported far more than manure fertilizers, and while manure won’t be able to replace all fertilizers, it is getting more buyers. Manure fertilizer imports are increasing while potassic fertilizer imports stagnate or decrease, particularly in France and the Netherlands.

Who exports manure

The Netherlands is the top exporter of manure fertilizers in the world followed by Italy and Belgium.

Countries that buy manure fertilizers use it in organic farming (pdf), which may be a good thing for getting more farmers to use organic products. But manure is also high in phosphorous which can contaminate water sources if not monitored.