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phosphate market

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    Phosphate market

    Phosphate rock is one of the world’s most important sources of phosphorus – an essential nutrient for plants and one of the key ingredients in the production of fertilisers for use in agriculture. Phosphorus helps plants capture light during photosynthesis, helps with seed germination and also helps plants use water more efficiently.

    Approximately 90% of the phosphate rock mined around the world is processed into fertilisers such as superphosphate, triple superphosphate and phosphoric acid, which have high concentrations of phosphorus and can be absorbed and used by plants very quickly.

    Increased global demand for fertiliser in recent years has played a large part in placing upward pressure on fertiliser prices. According to the Fertilizer Institute in the US, average US prices for the major fertiliser nutrients (phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium) reached the highest level on record in September 2007, increasing by an average 122% since 1992.

    Global demand for food, feed, fibre and bio-energy is expected to remain strong into the future. In particular, the exceptional growth in the plantation of crops for bio-fuels – which is in many cases subsidised by governments to assist in combating global warming - is expected to have a major impact on global fertiliser consumption.

    For instance, a research report from Integer Research Ltd released in November 2007, said that Europe alone would have to produce 20 million tonnes of oil equivalents of biofuels by 2010 to meet the guidelines of EU directives - a five-fold increase over current output. In the US, consumption of maize for bioethanol has increased from just over 10 million tonnes per year in 2000 to almost 50 million tonnes in 2006. To meet this rising demand, farmers will need to replace their traditional crops, look for new arable land or boost yield. This will certainly have a positive effect on the demand for fertiliser.

    In the medium term, the Fertilizer Institute has forecast that world fertiliser demand will continue to grow steadily. Compared to average consumption between 2004/05 and 2006/07, global demand in 2011/12 is seen increasing 2.6% annually on average, to reach 184.2 million tonnes.

    Table 1: Global Fertiliser Consumption (Mt nutrients)

    2006/07 (e) 2007/08 (f) Change 2011/12 (f) Annual Change*
    N 97.9 100.1 +2.3% 107.5 +2.3%
    P2 O5 38.9 40.0 +3.0% 44.6 +2.9%
    K2 O 27.1 28.4 +4.7% 32.1 +3.2%
    Total 163.9 168.6 +2.9% 184.2 +2.6%
    (*) Compared to the average 2004/05 to 2006/07
    Source: IFA
    At the regional level, Fertilizer Institute predicts the bulk of this increase in demand is expected to come from Asia – with South and East Asia together accounting for some 70% of total growth.

    Source: IFA
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