France: the surge in the price of nitrogen fertilizers worries farmers

French cereal growers estimate that the additional cost for national agriculture could reach 4 billion euros, without taking into account the increase in other charges, in particular the cost of gas necessary for drying corn.

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2 min

In France, farmers are wondering if they will be able to fertilize their fields in the spring.

The prices of nitrogen fertilizers have tripled in a few months, they follow the rise in the price of gas. 

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A year ago, liquid nitrogen fertilizer was worth 165 euros per tonne, today its price is close to 800 euros.

Never seen.

The surge in the price of gas is the main culprit. 

To fertilize their fields and get the best yield from their seed, farmers use three types of fertilizer: either a liquid nitrogen solution, or ammonitrate or urea in granular form.

But all need the same component, ammonia obtained by combining nitrogen from the air and hydrogen from natural gas.

Almost 80% of the production cost of ammonia is in fact linked to the use of gas.  

Fear of a shortage

Very dependent on

Russian gas

, the price of which continues to rise, Europe and its fertilizer manufacturers are on the front line. To reduce their production costs, they manufacture less, which makes farmers fear a shortage. The Norwegian group Yara has cut its ammonia production by 40% and the German chemist BASF has announced a reduction in production at its factory in Antwerp, Belgium. In addition, to this reduced supply is added the increase in the price of freight, which has also tripled since the start of the year.

 In view of this inflationary context, the large cereals producers estimate at least 4 billion euros the additional cost for French agriculture, the leading producer in the EU.

They are asking the government to lift customs taxes on imports of nitrogen products since 2019.

This crisis throws a harsh light on the dependence of traditional agriculture on mineral fertilizers which have helped boost yields.

Alternatives exist, particularly in organic farming, with the spreading of organic nitrogen in the form of chicken droppings in particular, or the cultivation of alfalfa which fixes nitrogen in the soil.

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Keywords: farmers, price, gas, fields, surge, prices, nitrogen fertilizers, rise, france, mineral fertilizers, liquid nitrogen fertilizer, fear, cereals producers, rfi follow2 minin france, cost