he price of grain and other farm crops have risen, so has the cost of the inputs needed to grow them. Last year nitrogen fertiliser was about £145/tonne and now is £350/tonne. Phosphate and Potash have more than tripled in price to around £600/tonne. Diesel fuel has more than doubled to nearly 70p/ litre and most pesticides are more expensive. Roundup for example, has tripled in price. Steel and energy costs are pushing up the price of tractors and all other farm machinery. Land prices and rents are reaching record highs.
It is widely assumed that suppliers are jumping on the bandwagon and taking advantage of farmers new found prosperity, but that is only partly true. Farmers have responded to higher food prices by trying to push up yields and by bringing marginal land in to production. This has increased the demand for inputs that in most cases cannot be quickly met.
The suppliers of these inputs will, of course, respond by pushing up production as quickly as they can which may reduce prices in the short to medium term, but we must realise that there will come a time when the Earth can no longer provide the resources needed for a rapidly increasing population that expects an ever increasing standard of living.
Government ministers are calling for increased world food production as though it’s a simple matter, like turning on a tap, but the resources of fossil energy, fertiliser, land and water are limited and will ultimatly place a ceiling on the total amount of food that can be produced under our present system.
Plainly, if we are to survive, we need to change our farming system to one that is sustainable. That would mean recycling most crop nutrients, adopting sensible crop rotations and finding more efficient ways of collecting solar energy by the plant leaf and other means and then using that energy with minimum waste.
If governments do not recognise the impotance of establishing a sustainable food production system, the future is grim.