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Unlocking Africa's fertility

Summary

The problems of sub-Saharan Africa serve as a reproach to those attending the forthcoming United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development. Finding an effective strategy for the region's agricultural production would at first sight be as elusive as ever, as there is little encouragement to be drawn from the official statistics. Food production per hectare and per head of population remain stubbornly low, as are the figures for fertilizer application rates.How to achieve the elusive goal of food security will surely loom large on the Summit's agenda.

Abstract

The agricultural sector in Africa has under-performed to an alarming extent for the past few decades, with the problems of weak food security and enduring pockets of malnutrition being particularly acute in sub-Saharan Africa. From the early 1960s to the late 1980s, population growth was about 3%/year, while agricultural output during this period rose by only 2%/year. (Fertilizer Strategies, FAO/IFA, December 1999) Agricultural productivity declined during this period, and the present food availability of about 2,000 calories/day is some 10 % below the minimum recommended daily requirement according to FAO-WHO standards. In marked contrast with other developing regions, cereal yields per hectare have declined in sub-Saharan Africa during the past two decades, as emphasised in Table 1.

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Can the CAP be made to fit?

Summary

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union is a strange beast. It was originally devised by the charter members of the old Common Market to ensure long-term food security by offering a protective financial umbrella that encouraged farmers to stay on the land and maximise output.CAP was all too successful in achieving that goal, and it subsequently became notorious as a pump that could not be switched off, creating unmarketable surpluses of many products. In response to public pressure,CAP was revised on two occasions in the past decade. Another fundamental reform of CAP is now in prospect.What will this mean for Western Europe's fertilizer producers?

Abstract

As European Union officials brace themselves for what will inevitably be a tough round of negotiations with their Polish counterparts, others are preparing for what promises to be a radical reform of the existing Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The CAP currently costs EU taxpayers around m40 billion/ year – a figure that is becoming less acceptable in political terms. However, any proposed reform will certainly be closely scrutinised by EU-15 member nations, and they will not be shy in exercising their powers of veto, as was the case with the Agenda 2000 proposals.

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Tug-of-war over Kaliningrad

Summary

Since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1992, Kaliningrad has been an isolated enclave of the Russian Federation.Attempts to create a Baltic equivalent to Hong Kong, building up the port of Kaliningrad as a bridge between east and west, have been only partially successful, but the port has gained a significant volume of fertilizer business, in conjunction with overseas partners. Most recently, however, the future of Kaliningrad has become headline news, as Russian leaders make the case for retaining visa-free travel to and from the enclave after neighbouring Poland and Lithuania join the EU.What are the implications for Kaliningrad's fertilizer business?

Abstract

The Russian port enclave of Kaliningrad has lately become headline news and a cause of contention with the European Union. According to the Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, it is “a sensitive issue for the Russian population” and a priority in relations with the European Union. Kaliningrad is sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania, some 200km from the Russian frontier, and the Russian government has expressed concern that the enclave will be cut off if these two countries join the EU as expected in 2004. EU membership would force the neighbouring countries to tighten their border controls with the region and impose visa requirements. Kaliningrad’s 450,000 residents are currently able to travel visa-free to neighbouring countries. The metropolitan population is augmented by a further 550,000 residents in the hinterland of the Kaliningrad oblast. The issue of access to Kaliningrad will be a major item on the agenda at the EU-Russian summit that is scheduled for November.

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Growing to a Brazilian beat

Summary

Diversification into new product markets and offshore investments are a familiar Grail for companies seeking to add shareholder value.They can often be disappointed by the eventual results, but this would not appear to be the case with PotashCorp's increasing commitment to the feed phosphate sector and its recent acquisition of a feed phosphate plant in Brazil.

Abstract

PotashCorp is firmly committed to extending its portfolio to higher added-value products and reducing its exposure to the vagaries of fertilizer markets. Feed phosphates and purified phosphoric acid represent a key part of this strategy. In March 2000, the strategy received a boost when PotashCorp acquired the remaining phosphate business of Albright & Wilson. At the same time, PotashCorp bought the Fosfatos do Brasil feed phosphate plant formerly operated by Mitsui S.A. at São Vicente, Brazil. Today, PotashCorp operates five feed phosphate plants in the United States and one in Brazil. These locations and capacities are shown in Table 1.

PotashCorp claims to be the most diversified of any phosphate producer, supplying liquid fertilizers, solid fertilizers, animal feed supplements and purified phosphoric acid used in food and beverage products, metal treatment, detergents and electronics. The PCS Phosphates division of PotashCorp is now the world’s leading producer of feed phosphates, with a capacity of 1.3 million t/a.

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Transforming Poland's fertilizer plants

Summary

In the mid-1990s, several Polish fertilizer plants had been identified as among the worst polluters in the country.The plants were old and inefficient, and as Poland began to liberalise economic activity in advance of applying for entry into the European Union, the country's indigenous fertilizer industry faced a highly uncertain future. In 1996, the World Environmental Center (WEC), with support from USAID, liaised with the leading Polish fertilizer producers to demonstrate the benefits of projects that reduced emissions and cut waste.The payback was very quick indeed, and was the first step in putting the industry on a much sounder economic footing.This description of the project is based on the paper prepared by Marten Walters,of KEMWorks Technology, Inc. and Thomas Miller, Cargill Fertilizer/AB LIFOSA. The paper was presented at the International Workshop on Current Environmental Issues of Fertilizer Production, in Prague in June 1999.

Abstract

Since 1992, the World Environment Center (WEC) has worked in Poland and the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to demonstrate the economic benefits of environmentally- motivated low-cost waste minimisation projects in the local fertilizer industries. The WEC programme was supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and saved the six participating companies over $868,000/year. The net savings continue to be reaped, and are estimated to have saved over $3 million/year in net present value terms. By decreasing the use of resources such as water, energy and raw materials, and by reducing the generation of waste materials, the participating companies significantly improved their productivity, environmental performance and worker health and safety. This article reviews the benefits achieved in Poland.

What is waste minimisation? WEC defined this as the maximum feasible reduction of all wastes generated at production sites. A hierarchy for waste minimisation is shown below in Table 1.

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Minding the environment

Summary

Owing to the character of the materials it extracts and discards, the potash industry has special concerns over the environmental impact of wastes, not just in operation but after decommissioning, too.

Abstract

Potash is a relatively rare mineral, produced in a handful of locations around the world. The origin of all the commercially-exploited sources of potash is the same: the evaporative concentration of brines in landlocked or semi-landlocked seas. Two inland seas are commercially important sources of potash today: the Dead Sea and the Great Salt Lake. But for the most part the evaporation took place a very long time ago indeed, and the resulting deposits of socalled evaporites, including potash and other salts, lie underground at great depth (400-1,000 m). These formations can extend over a very wide area, though usually potassium-bearing minerals are only found over a relatively small part of it.

All large-scale operations to exploit minerals have a significant impact on the environment, from the visible destruction of terrain to pollution by wastes. The solar evaporation ponds for brine processing operations occupy very large areas, but these operations have an inherent advantage in that they are able to discharge their waste, containing essentially nothing that was not there in the first place, straight back to where it belongs: in the inland sea from which it was originally taken. That largely removes one of the biggest areas of concern of minerals industries: what to do with a huge volume of waste material which does not belong where it is generated, especially if it is susceptible to leaching.

In the case of the potash mining, that is the main concern, because deep mining does not cause the massive surface devastation that open-cast mining operations such as those of the phosphate industry do. However, subsidence of the mine workings sometimes can cause problems on the surface and that can be exacerbated by certain methods of waste disposal.

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