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<Book Review> Food crisis, the future has already begun 3

1. The battle for chemical fertilizers (Industrialized agriculture supports a vast population)

The food crisis caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine did not only disrupt grain supply. There was also a disruption in the supply and demand of chemical fertilizers, the main cause of the increase in grain production that supported the rapidly growing world population since the late 20th century. Russia and its ally Belarus occupy a high global market share in the raw materials and production of the three major chemical fertilizers, nitrogen, phosphoric acid, and potassium, because many countries have been hindered in procurement due to the economic sanctions of the two countries. According to a World Bank survey, chemical fertilizer prices soared by 181.9% for nitrogen, 79.1% for phosphoric acid, and 177.8% for potassium in April 2022, about a month after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, compared to the same month last year.

 

1) Impact of surge in chemical fertilizer prices

Fertilizer shortages and price surges pose serious problems beyond short-term disruptions in grain supply. Fertilizers can be a stronger political weapon than oil or natural gas because energy such as potash ore, which is a raw material, or natural gas consumed in the production process of nitrogen fertilizers is greatly influenced by Russia. If farmers around the world reduce their use of fertilizers due to a surge in fertilizer prices, grain production will inevitably decrease. At first glance, the price movements of grain and fertilizer after the military invasion appear similar, but the reality is very different.

 

As the war situation reached a stalemate in Ukraine and signs of an international food crisis emerged, the opening of a grain export corridor in the Black Sea was considered and the grain market stabilized. However, chemical fertilizers are in contrast to this. Nitrogen has returned close to the pre-invasion level, but still remains at the high point since 2012, and phosphoric acid and potassium remain within the high point range since 2008. Where do the differences in grain and fertilizer price movements come from? While the production areas of wheat and corn are spread all over the world, the production areas of raw materials for chemical fertilizers are limited. Nitrogen can be obtained as a raw material from the air, but the production process requires enormous energy, so oil-producing and acid-gas producing countries have an advantage. Phosphoric acid and potassium have limited raw material production areas, and Russia and Belarus are the main sources.

 

2) For sustainable agriculture

Sri Lanka failed to fully convert to organic farming and adopted chemical fertilizers again, but the negative effects of industrialized agriculture cannot be overlooked, such as the deterioration of organic quality in farmland due to groundwater contamination and reduction of soil microorganisms due to excessive use of chemical fertilizers. It's a problem. Therefore, from the perspective of resource and environmental conservation and decarbonization, we should reduce the use of chemical fertilizers that emit large amounts of greenhouse gases during the production stage, improve the use efficiency of chemical fertilizers, and promote the transition to regenerative and sustainable agriculture, including organic agriculture. Should be.

 

The immediate challenge is to create low-cost, highly effective compost and disseminate the technology, including the active use of cover plants (crops grown during the winter for soil protection or fertilizer). One way to do this could be to link up with enrichment by recovering and reusing livestock manure, or to create a system to supply local circular organic fertilizer by making organic fertilizer using household food waste as a raw material. Japan and Korea, where fertilizer imports are increasing due to the challenge of efficient, low-cost, and energy-saving sustainable agriculture, should also actively build such an ecosystem and spread it around the world. The coexistence and cooperation of chemical fertilizers and organic cyclical fertilizers will be helpful in countering the fertilizer risk caused by the invasion of Ukraine.

 

2. Harmony with the World - Food Security Viewed through Japan

It is no coincidence that in 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine, the world again faced a food and energy crisis. War is when a country risks everything to fight, and food and energy are used as weapons.

Most famines in the 20th century were caused by man-made causes such as war, tribal conflict, and power struggles. We no longer experience hunger due to bad weather, low agricultural production, or an absolute lack of farmland. The problem is that the world is increasingly facing artificial factors that can cause hunger, such as the crisis of war, the crisis of world division, the crisis of global warming, and the crisis of resources. Based on this situation, let's look at the case of Japan, which has gradually established a food security policy (as of 2022, Japan ranks 6th out of 113 countries in the World Food Security Index, while Korea ranks 39th, far behind China, which ranks 25th).

 

1) Current state of food security / Extremely low self-sufficiency rate of feed raw materials

Looking at Japan's food self-sufficiency rate, 98% of rice, the staple food in 2021, was almost completely procured domestically, while vegetables remained at a fairly high level of 75% and fish and shellfish 53%. The domestic ratio of livestock products, which does not reflect imported feed, is as high as 64%, but when the self-sufficiency rate is calculated excluding the amount of imported feed, it immediately drops to 16%. The self-sufficiency rate of wheat is 17%, and the self-sufficiency rate of oils such as soybean oil and rapeseed oil is only 3%. Therefore, sufficient reserves are necessary. For reference, the importance of stockpiling also appeared in 2022. After Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the international markets for wheat and corn soared, while the market for rice showed little change.

 

Although Ukraine and Russia rarely export rice, the fact that Asian countries with large populations each operate a food management system for rice, a staple food, and maintain certain reserves can be said to be one of the factors preventing confusion. In any case, the basics of food security are for consumers to be able to maintain their daily eating habits and healthy nutritional status. However, as a practical matter, it is impossible to take on all of this within one country. Therefore, it is important to achieve this through a combination and balance of three things: those that must be self-sufficient, those that must rely on imports, and reserves to respond to unexpected events such as disruptions in the supply chain.

 

2) Harmony with the world

In Japan, in addition to national agricultural research institutes, each province has agricultural testing centers and agricultural research institutes that promote the improvement of varieties and the development of efficient agricultural technologies, and their capabilities are high. There are countless high-quality rice varieties, and there are also numerous cases of successful breeding of grapes, strawberries, apples, melons, and peaches, which are attracting worldwide attention. In the future, it is expected that these high-level research and development capabilities will be used to improve breeds and improve technologies to respond to global warming and reduce greenhouse gases, with an eye on the entire Asia and the world. In particular, knowledge and technology to increase food production, respond to warming, and reduce greenhouse gases using high R&D capabilities and technology must be expanded to developing countries. This is because the world's ability to continuously increase food production is directly related to the food security of Japan, a food importing powerhouse.

 

Japan, the world's leading grain importing power, has invested in agricultural collection and transportation systems in the United States and Brazil to secure stable imports of grains, and has actively participated in international trade in agricultural products, contributing greatly to the stable supply of world food. I'm doing it. The key to agricultural production is stable demand, and environmental improvement in which farmers and livestock farmers can continue to invest with peace of mind is the way to improve food security. Going forward, we will continue to pay attention to and invest in open agriculture and trade in agricultural products, and strive to export agricultural technologies that solve world-class challenges, which will further solidify Japan's food security. It would maintain an open international grain market, distinct from the ongoing division of the world. Food security cannot exist without harmony with the world. The same applies to all countries around the world, including Korea.

 

Sejong University Distinguished Professor Min Seung-gyu, who has been researching agriculture for 40 years and is known as an icon of Korean agricultural innovation and a food problem solver, made the following request while confirming the current state of Korea's food problem in this book. “There are two perspectives on the food crisis. Food shortages are expected due to various factors such as population growth, income increase, and climate change, and the 'pessimism' that a food crisis will arrive due to price surges is only a temporary phenomenon. Through agricultural investment and the integration of new varieties and new technologies, It is ‘optimism’ that it is possible to overcome the food crisis. The two perspectives have different views on factors such as supply, demand, and distribution, but now that food security has become more important than ever, everyone should take a cooperative attitude to thoroughly respond to the immediate crisis rather than looking at the situation optimistically. need.