Manitoba’s official opposition and farmers want the government to investigate
By Diego Flammini
Members of Manitoba’s ag community and the provincial legislature are asking Heather Stefanson’s government to investigate high fertilizer prices.
Diljeet Brar, the NDP’s critic for agriculture and resource development, wrote a letter to Agriculture Minister Derek Johnson on Jan. 18 to raise the issue of high fertilizer prices.
“Producers have shared with me local prices that have tripled in the last year,” the letter says. “The prices we are seeing in Manitoba are well in excess of the rise of prices globally. This situation is of great concern.”
Minister Johnson and the rest of the provincial government should “use all powers available to ensure a fair price for producers,” the letter adds.
Manitoba farmers also want answers and government intervention.
There doesn’t appear to be any concrete reasons for the increases, said Dean Harder, a Lowe Farm, Man. producer and member of the National Farmers Union.
“When you’re talking about prices multiplying by two or three times depending on when you were able to purchase your fertilizer, it feels to many of us farmers to be quite absurd,” he told Farms.com. “What is the real justification?”
Farmers were paying about $640 per metric tonne in fall 2020. Those prices rose into the $700s in 2021 and now some farmers have paid more than $1900 per metric tonne of synthetic fertilizer, Harder said.
These increased costs cut into a farmer’s potential profit and increase overall risk.
“It’s a gamble to wait and see if prices go down,” he said. “You want to make sure you have the product there.”
One possible explanation is fertilizer companies are purposely taking actions that would inflate prices.
The fertilizer market is very consolidated in North America, and companies know farmers need their products, Harder said.
“It feels like the companies are raising prices because they can,” he said. “With less competition, they have the wherewithal to do so. That’s why we want the government to do the real work, to find out what’s going on, release the information in a transparent way and provide recommendations to improve our systems.”
Farm organizations south of the border have also asked government to look into high fertilizer prices.
The Family Farm Action Alliance wrote a letter to the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice to examine prices farmers are being asked to pay.
The organization studied reports from Nutrien and Yara and found these companies “have the capacity, they’ve idled the capacity and it appears they have created the shortages themselves,” Joe Maxwell, president of the Family Farm Action Alliance, told Farms.com in December.
Farms.com has contacted Manitoba Agriculture Minister Derek Johnson’s office for comment.