The World Is So Desperate for Manure Even Human Waste Is a Hot Commodity

The market for manure -- from pigs, horses, cattle and even humans -- has never been so hot, thanks to a global shortage of chemical fertilizers. From a report: Just ask Andrew Whitelaw, a grains analyst at Thomas Elder Markets based in Melbourne, Australia who runs a commercial pig farm in his spare time. Whitelaw said that he's completely sold clean of animal waste, as farmers hunt for alternatives to the more commonly used phosphate- and nitrogen-based fertilizers that are vital to boosting crop yields. "We don't have any left," he said. "In a normal year, you'd probably get a couple phone calls a year, not a couple of phone calls a week." It may be some time before he sees the interest in pig poop taper. Prices of synthetic fertilizer, which rely on natural gas and coal as raw materials, have soared amid an energy shortage and export restrictions by Russia and China. That's adding to challenges for agricultural supply chains at a time when global food costs are near a record high and farmers scramble for fertilizers to prevent losses to global crop yields for staples. The Green Markets North American Fertilizer Price Index is hovering around an all-time high at $1,072.87 per short ton, while in China, spot urea has soared more than 200% this year to a record. The demand for dung is playing out globally. In Iowa, manure is selling for between $40 to $70 per short ton, up about $10 from a year ago and the highest levels since 2012, according to Daniel Anderson, assistant professor at Iowa State University and a specialist on manure. Manure is mostly a local market and truckloads won't go further than 50 miles (80 kilometers), Anderson said. When crop, fertilizer and manure prices soared about a decade ago, more farmers reintroduced animals such as hogs and cattle onto their land, in part for their manure. That option could again be on farmers' minds as fertilizer costs soar.

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