As the Russian-Ukraine war rages on, the pressure of the economic sanctions imposed on Russia continues to increase. The list of sanctions being imposed on Russia is quite extensive and includes such things as seizing Putin’s, his foreign minister's (Sergei Lavrov), and Russia’s central bank’s foreign currency reserves, as well as kicking seven of Russia’s largest banks out of the Swift system. Furthermore, Joe Biden announced earlier this month that the U.S. would ban the small amount of Russian oil that is imported into this country by the end of 2022. Europe, which is more reliant on Russian oil imports, for its part has committed to switching over to alternative sources of energy by 2033.
In addition to all of this, the EU and the UK has imposed high taxes on certain Russian exports, and as the Epoch Times recently reported, “the world’s three largest container shipping companies, Switzerland’s MSC, Denmark’s Maersk, and France’s CMA-CGM, announced on March 1 the suspension of all cargo bookings to and from all Russian ports.” And although “food, medical, and humanitarian” supplies are exempt, one of Russia’s major exports to the world is not: Chemical fertilizer.
Yet Another Breakdown in the Supply Chains
According to The Fertilizer Institute (a professional organization for the fertilizer industry) Russia “accounts for 23 percent of global ammonia exports, 14 percent of urea (carbamide) exports, 21 percent of potash (a fertilizer made of potassium) exports, and 10 percent of processed phosphate exports.” Furthermore, since “natural gas is the main raw material for nitrogen fertilizers” international bans on Russian natural gas will affect up to a quarter of the world's fertilizer supply.
Since, fertilizer, like other commodities and energy, are sold in a global market the absence of Russian fertilizer exports will cause shortages and price increases all around the world since there will be less overall products on the global market. This is why even though the U.S. gets so little oil from Russia, it will still cause our gas prices to go up since there will be less oil overall in the world. So in addition to all of the other shortfalls or breakdowns in our supply chains that we have been dealing with for the last two years, the shortage of fertilizer coming out of Russia will have ripple effects several months from now.
After all, when it comes to synthetic ammonia fertilizer, we are talking about a product that has been "credited for helping food production keep pace with global population growth” and in the span of about 100 years has allowed “our planet’s population has gone from 1.7 billion to 7.7 billion, largely thanks to enormous growth in crop yields.” For better or worse, the world’s population is fed by food that is grown using the kind chemical fertilizers that are now going to be in short supply around the world.
Some countries such as Brazil, which imports 85-95% of its fertilizer (21% from Russia and 20% from China), are already feeling the strain, as farmers saw a 60% rise in fertilizer prices after the start of the Russian-Ukraine war. To make matters worse, China is going to become more parsimonious with their own fertilizer exports. As has been recently reported, five provinces in northern China “suffered from rare autumn floods, and as a result, one-third, or 110 million mu (18 million acres) of winter wheat was sown half a month later than normal.” This is going to require them to use more nitrogen-based fertilizer than normal, in order to boost the growth of their crops “during the greening, elongation, and grain filling periods, in order to ameliorate a potential grain harvest crisis.”
As for the United States, our total fertilizer imports only account for around 10% of the total world consumption, thanks to a vibrant fertilizer producing industry in this country. Nevertheless, we still import a fair amount of fertilizer from other countries, which means that our farmers will not be immune to the global fertilizer shortages and the concomitant rise in prices for agricultural goods and the crops they produce. Looking ahead, the USDA has put in plans to boost the production of American fertilizer, while at the same time encouraging farmers to switch from fertilizer intensive crops such as corn, to less-intensive ones such as soy beans.
Nonetheless, as the New York Post reported, the current fertilizer shortages will mean smaller crop yields at harvest time, which will translate into higher food prices- yes higher than they are now- in a few months time. In short, what we are seeing is what Alexis Maxwell, an analyst at Bloomberg’s Green Markets, has called “a slow-moving disaster.”
The Coming of the Black Rider
In the Book of Revelation, the infamous Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are let loose upon the world to carry out God’s judgement. It’s safe to say that we have already experienced, in some form or another, the first two- the White and the Red Riders- in the last two decades. Based on the largely unreported news of fertilizer shortages, it would appear that we are hearing the distant tremors of the Black horse and its rider approaching,
“behold, a black horse, and its rider had a balance in his hand; and I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; but do not harm oil and wine!”
It is interesting to note that the Rider was told not to touch the “oil and wine” which in the first century were luxury items and used as a means of trade, but instead to raise the prices of grain, which were the daily staples of life for the ordinary person. Well what can you say, there’s nothing new under the sun and, as always, all of these hardships will fall hardest on ordinary working people and those in the developing world. Meanwhile the elites of the world will generally find a way to ride out what woes will come now or in the future.
In Scott Hahn’s lengthy study on the Book of Revelation called The End, he notes that some of the imagery in the last book of the Bible can be seen as symbolizing the fall of the city of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 A.D. Hahn speaks about how the Roman armies had surrounded Jerusalem, but before beginning their assault, they were called away based on a rumor of a coup taking place in Rome. According, to the early church historian Eusebius, the nascent Christian community in Jerusalem knew of our Lord’s word in the Olivet Discourse found in Luke's Gospel (21:21), and used that brief window of opportunity to flee to a town named Pella before the Roman troops returned and destroyed Jerusalem.
Right now, Providence and common sense are presenting us with a similar window of opportunity to do what we need to do to prepare for what is coming. So if you are one of those people who used to mock and deride “Preppers” (say around the time of Y2K), well now is the time to knock it off. Now is the time to buy and store up what food, household items, medical supplies, and any other basic necessities you can before they go up in price or become unavailable. More importantly though, start forming what Andrew Torba, a Christian and founder of the Gab social media site called "parallel economies" or what I once referred to as Catacomb Communities. These are groups, associations, or cooperatives of like-minded people whom you can form religious, personal, and business contacts with that will make surviving any upcoming shortages and turmoils easier.
After all, more than likely most of us won’t be able to “flee to the mountains” and will just have to face the “days of vengeance” ourselves as Uncle Joe and his Green/Davos dog-pony soldiers will demand more of our freedoms and liberties in exchange for the pretending to taking care of us. The choice of what path to take is ours to choose.