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Food sufficiency worries grow

Dimitra Manifava

The question of food sufficiency will be the focus of a meeting Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will head on Monday, with the participation of Rural Development and Food Minister Giorgos Georgantas, as the market fears for supplies of certain categories due to the war in Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on Russia and Belarus.

Last week the government passed a clause forcing enterprises to declare their stock of wheat, fertilizers, animal feed, and corn/sunflower oil. Government officials assure there is sufficient stock in the country for many months, with the exception of sunflower oil.

Retailers also speak of sufficient supplies, although many supermarkets have already introduced limits on purchases of flour, sunflower/corn oil and even sugar, while stressing that this is a precautionary measure. The limits now concern both online and physical stores.

However, the main parameters threatening domestic as well as global production, concerning both crops and animal husbandry, is the soaring of fertilizer prices to record levels, following Russia’s decision to ban exports. Russia is the world’s biggest producer and exporter of fertilizers.

Furthermore, the increase in global natural gas rates, the fuel used in the production of many detergents, has led many European industries to reduce output. Even before the Russian invasion in Ukraine there were problems from the EU ban on potassium chloride imports from Belarus, which is the biggest producer in the world of the component also used in the production of fertilizers.

The soaring of production costs due to the above factors affecting fertilizer availability has already made producers reluctant to plant new crops, as that would lose them money. “The unrest generated due to the war will take time to end and for normality to return, according to the market,” noted Piraeus Bank in is latest agricultural products bulletin last week: “There will be plenty of challenges until then, with disruption in the supply chain, the increased cost of fertilizers and the soaring energy rates preventing the possible continuation of cultivation,” the bank warned.

The first such examples concern melons and watermelons, with planting this year already 30% below 2021 levels.

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