Russian Sanctions Lead to Soaring Fertilizer Prices for Maine Farmers


Farmer Daniel Corey saw diesel fuel for his equipment top $5.50 a gallon this spring and replacement parts took weeks to arrive, but something else at the heart of farming worries him particularly.

It is fertilizer, which is in short supply.

Prices have doubled over the past year and promise to double again by next year’s growing season, the result of multiple factors ranging from geopolitics to supply chain issues, driving up prices. costs and uncertainty for farmers in Maine and around the world.

Most of Maine’s fertilizer comes from Canada, although the raw materials come from around the world. Farmers should be able to get enough this year, but higher costs for diesel fuel, electricity and machinery parts are stressing farmers. Corey, CEO of Daniel J. Corey Farms in Monticello, isn’t planning on planting anything more this year so as not to lose money.

“For every farmer in this state, this year will be the most expensive crop they’ve ever grown,” said Donald Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board. “More money spent on harvesting needs to be transferred somewhere, and some will go to the consumer.”

Maine imported $28.5 million worth of all types of fertilizers from all sources globally in 2021, up from $19.5 million in 2020, according to WISERTrade, which collects trade data. Imports declined in January and February of this year to almost $1.5 million for the two months, compared to $2.4 million in the same two months of 2021.

Fertilizer imports from Canada have more than halved in the first two months of this year compared to the same period last year. Maine’s imports from Russia, a major fertilizer exporter, more than tripled in the first two months of this year, but that was before sanctions stemming from President Vladimir’s invasion of Ukraine Putin.

While fertilizer dealers said sanctions against Russia were already starting to cut fertilizer supplies, prices had already started to climb since the fall of 2020, when Hurricane Ida slowed down a multinational fertilizer company. agricultural fertilizers in Louisiana. It was slow to restart, triggering shortages and price hikes.

“Sanctions against Russia are increasing costs and causing uncertainty in the market,” said Danny Blanchette, general manager of Grand Falls Agromart in Grand Falls, N.B., a major supplier of fertilizer to Maine farmers. . “People will pay more for fertilizer this year, but they will get it.”

For Corey, who farms more than 1,100 acres with 50 varieties of seed potatoes, the price of fertilizer has gone from 25 cents a pound to 40 cents a pound over the past year, or about $540 l ‘acre.

Another farmer said the fertilizer market is global and the Russian sanctions put a higher bill on Maine farmers.

“I’m covered for this year, but with the sanctions on Russia, next year could be a big deal,” said Ryan Guerrette, president of Guerrette Farms in Caribou, which farms 1,200 acres of potatoes.

He said fertilizer cost $120 a ton a few decades ago, but he recently paid $700 a ton, which is pretty low.

Escalating costs, including more expensive fuel to run the processes that make fertilizer and higher prices for transoceanic transport of fertilizer components, are creating greater uncertainty in fertilizer prices.

“We cannot guarantee any future prices,” said Tami Van Gaal, controlled environment business manager at Griffin Greenhouse & Nursery, a Gray-based horticultural distribution company.

This creates more uncertainty for farmers. Corey said he was unsure what supplies he would get in the event of continued supply chain delays and shortages. All of this is amplified by Maine’s relatively short growing season.

He and others worry about the United States’ reliance on foreign products like fertilizers that are so essential to its economy and the potential for food shortages.

“Imagine having a whole agricultural society in the United States that we can’t grow without other countries providing that fertilizer,” he said. “It’s scary. We should have more American fertilizer companies.


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