Let’s look at what happens when barriers are put in place of synthetic fertiliser use. Sri Lanka is an example of the fallibility of organic farming on a large scale and the folly of government interventions in food and agricultural markets.
The Sri Lankan government decided in 2021 to force the entire island nation into organic farming by banning the use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. The reasoning behind this was twofold: firstly, a belief that a ban would reduce healthcare costs and secondly, to reduce foreign currency outflows.
The ban resulted in drastically reduced yields for the country’s major crops of rice and tea, meaning Sri Lanka now requires much larger food imports.
Intervention in fertiliser use was a monumentally flawed policy, and many scientists and analysts raised concerns about the implications. First and foremost, it has locally exacerbated the food price inflation that the world is already suffering through. Secondly, it has caused a massive economic shock to the nation, causing protests to erupt and an inability to pay foreign debt.
As a country producing vast quantities of food, and a relatively small population, Australia produces an abundant surplus. In recent years, Australia has produced on average more than 1 tonne of wheat for every person.
In Australia, consumer expenditure on food is roughly 10% a person compared with many developing countries, where consumer spending on food can reach as high as 59%.
Reductions in luxuries can offset a rise in food prices in Australia; in other places, it’s offset by eating less. The effect will be felt in the poorer parts of the world, not in the richest.
The world needs synthetic fertilisers to produce the required calories. There are no other solutions that are yet capable of substituting it.