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Quick Hits: Food for the Soil

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Brief scrutiny of today's headlines.

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Without fertilizer, experts predict, there would only be enough food to feed half of the Earth's six billion people. Meanwhile, costs are rising and quantities are depleting - fast.
According to the Financial Post, demand for fertilizers was up 4.5% in 2006 and 6% in 2007, forcing companies like Potash Corporation (POT) to ration the selling of its wares. New plants can help with output, but construction can take up to five years, so sky-high prices are here to stay.

Farmers, especially those in Africa, are feeling the crunch. According to Mediaglobal.org, fertilizer creates a cycle of poverty. Its prohibitive cost limits access. This reduces crop yields, which in turn makes it all but impossible for growers to make enough money to buy fertilizer for future crops. African farmers lack a domestic source of soil enrichment, meaning they're totally dependent on the foreign market.

According to Bloomberg, India is expanding its footprint in this global fertilizer market. The country hopes to attract foreign investment by doubling production -- from 21 million to 40 million tons -- of the soil nutrient urea by 2012. The new quantities will be achieved by revamping existing urea plants, reviving closed plants and new investment.

Some look to hold the U.S. accountable for the fertilizer crisis because of its depletion of corn crops in the name of so-called environmentally-friendly ethanol. But maybe America's 27% in annual waste of consumable food should be blamed instead.

For more on America's expanding waistline, check out Hoofy & Boo's alwasy astute report.


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