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Surging Fertilizer Prices Set to Exacerbate African Food Crisis

  • Use of nutrients may shrink by a third in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Import-dependent region may face increasing food shortages
Farmers guide cattle to graze in a millet field in northeastern Ivory Coast.

Farmers guide cattle to graze in a millet field in northeastern Ivory Coast.

Photographer: Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images

A surge in global fertilizer prices is adding to worries about food security across sub-Saharan Africa, where small-scale farmers depend largely on imports -- if they even use additional nutrients at all.

With prices tripling over the past 18 months, many farmers are considering whether to forgo purchases of fertilizers this year. That leaves a market long touted for its growth potential set to shrink by almost a third, according to Sebastian Nduva, program manager at researcher group AfricaFertilizer.Org. That could potentially curb cereals output by 30 million tons, enough to feed 100 million people, he said.