Argus/IFA study reaffirms no shortage of phosphate rock

Global energy and commodity information service Argus has produced a study commissioned by the International Fertilizer Association (IFA) to transparently assess global resources and reserves of phosphate rock, a source of the key nutrient phosphorus, which is used in the production of fertilizer. The analysis was based on the best publicly available information and data collected through company surveys. It found that, despite reports in some quarters to the contrary, there is no global shortage, and that there are sufficient deposits of mineable and processable phosphate rock for about 350 years’ supply at projected usage rates and using current technology.

This figure assumes no advance in mining and processing technology from the present day and can be seen as a low-ball estimate. In theory, if total available global resources are considered, more sustainable farming practices are more widely adopted and fertilizers are used in an increasingly efficient way, a higher-end limit could be more than 1,000 years.

The report highlights that plentiful supply should not deter companies from working towards sustainability objectives, including improving agricultural use efficiency, recycling nutrients from various waste streams, and maximizing efficiency of the phosphate mining and extraction processes. These actions will maximize the longevity of phosphate reserves.

Efficient use of nutrients will result in improved crop yields and farm economics, reduced aquatic ecosystem pollution via runoff and the increased lifespan of currently known phosphate deposits.

In producing the study, Argus took a scenario-based approach and found that in all cases there is no imminent threat to the global supply of phosphorus for plant nutrition. Given the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the increasing sense of urgency surrounding the COP Climate Summits, attention should be focused on the decarbonization of the sector, rather than any perception of global phosphate rock scarcity.

Argus Media chairman and chief executive Adrian Binks said: “This study provides a balanced and insightful contribution to the debate about the future availability of phosphate rock as a source of fertilizer.”

Alzbeta Klein, CEO and Director General of the International Fertilizer Association said: “While the findings of this study are very reassuring from the perspective of the availability of global phosphate reserves, the industry recognizes the need to focus on greater sustainability in the production and use of phosphates as a priority. Innovation across the supply chain is needed to ensure we extract and use the available reserves appropriately now and into the future. IFA and its members are committed to both the sustainable use of phosphate reserves and to exploring opportunities to recycle by-products where possible.”

About Argus Media

Argus is the leading independent provider of market intelligence to the global energy and commodity markets. We offer essential price assessments, news, analytics, consulting services, data science tools and industry conferences to illuminate complex and opaque commodity markets.

Headquartered in London with 1,300 staff, Argus is an independent media organisation with 29 offices in the world’s principal commodity trading hubs.

Companies, trading firms and governments in 160 countries around the world trust Argus data to make decisions, analyse situations, manage risk, facilitate trading and long-term planning. Argus prices are used as trusted benchmarks around the world for pricing transportation, commodities and energy.

Founded in 1970, Argus remains a privately held UK-registered company owned by employee shareholders, global growth equity firm General Atlantic and Hg, the specialist software and technology services investor.

About the International Fertilizer Association (IFA)

The International Fertilizer Association (IFA) was founded in 1927 and is the only global fertilizer association, with some 450 members in 70 countries and a mission to promote the efficient and responsible production, distribution and use of plant nutrients. This mission plays a critical role in helping to feed the world sustainably. IFA represents providers of plant nutrition solutions. Members include fertilizer producers, traders and distributors, as well as their associations, service providers to the industry, research organizations, ag-tech startups and non-governmental organizations. The IFA members who sponsored the report are: ICL, IFFCO, Ma’aden, Mosaic, Nutrien and OCP.

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