Skip to content
Businessweek
Economics

Soaring Fertilizer Prices Are About to Increase the Cost of Food

Russia is a major supplier of every crop nutrient, and higher supermarket bills will be a ripple effect of its invasion of Ukraine.

Workers inspect piles of phosphate fertilizer granules at a storage warehouse in Cherepovets, Russia. 

Workers inspect piles of phosphate fertilizer granules at a storage warehouse in Cherepovets, Russia. 

Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Ben Riensche, who farms 16,000 acres in Iowa, would be ecstatic to get $80 per acre selling his corn. But it’ll cost him $240 an acre to feed the plants with nitrogen, triple what he’s used to paying. And that’s not counting what he’ll spend on two other important fertilizers, phosphate and potash, which he says have each doubled in price since he purchased supplies for his 2021 crops.

Pandemic-induced supply bottlenecks and the rising cost of natural gas, a key production input, are among the factors sending fertilizer prices soaring. Add disruptions stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and consumers will be paying more for almost every plate of food. “You think they squawk about having gas go from three to four dollars a gallon?” says Riensche. “Wait until the grocery bill is $1,000 a month.”