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Contrasting visions for Europe

Summary

The 7th International Bulk Blending conference of AFCOME (Association Française des Coopératives et Entreprises de Distribution et de Mélange d'Engrais) convened in Bordeaux on 14-16 November 2001, against a backdrop of renewed concern throughout the Western European ­fertilizer industry of flat sales and weak margins. Compounding these economic woes, the industry is still absorbing the after-shocks arising from the tragic explosion at Toulouse. The spirit of enquiry and lively debate in a welcoming venue that characterises AFCOME's biennial meetings was not impaired, however, and the conference set to its business with a series of market overviews, as summarised below.

Abstract

The unspoken theme of the 7th AFCOME Annual Meeting in Bordeaux was one of struggle. At the most basic level, the struggle was merely a matter of getting to the venue at the Cité Mondiale congress and exhibition centre: extensive works in conjunction with the construction of Bordeaux’s prestigious new tramway network had blocked nearly all the obvious access points – by road and by foot – and many delegates despaired of ever finding their way in. Far more importantly, however, a fundamental struggle at the commercial level is affecting the Western European fertilizer sector. This quickly became clear in the course of the presentations, as manufacturers, distributors, and agricultural co-operatives alike emphasised the extent to which sales and margins have come under acute pressure, and how many of the problems being addressed appear increasingly intractable.

In addition to economic issues, the European fertilizer industry must address environmental concerns as it faces an ever more stringent regulatory regime. Casting a deep shadow over the AFCOME conference was the aftermath of the tragic explosion at Toulouse. The industry will be obliged to defend and re-examine its safety criteria, whatever the outcome of the current enquiries into the disaster, and there is a prevailing belief that the industry will have to undertake fundamental changes to its operating practices, particularly in the transport and storage of nitrogen fertilizers.

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Paving the way for privatisation

Summary

While accounting for just under 5% of the global output of potash, Jordan's Arab Potash Co. (APC) more than punches its weight in international export markets. The company plays a strategic role in the Jordanian economy, and is set to make an even greater contribution to the country's balance of payments as it brings a series of expansion projects to fruition.

Abstract

After a couple of years of steady consolidation, more dramatic developments are in prospect for Arab Potash Co. (APC), as the Jordanian government lays the first foundations for the company’s eventual privatisation. Furthermore, several major joint-venture projects are about to come on stream. These projects will offer major opportunities for APC to extend its presence in new markets. As part of a fundamental reform of the Jordanian economy, the Ministry of Planning has announced a two-year economic priority programme that will overhaul public services, expand the private sector and encourage foreign investment. A series of private sector investments totalling over $1 billion will transform the energy and water sectors, while the revenue from the planned privatisation of APC and other leading industrial companies will help fund a series of educational and development projects.

Ownership of APC is currently vested with the Jordan Investment Corp. (with a 55.36% stake), Arab Mining Co. (21.65%), the Saudi Arabia-based Islamic Develop­ment Bank (5.4%), the Govern­ment of Iraq (4.92%), Libyan Arab Co. for Foreign In­vest­ment (4.25%), and the Kuwait Invest­ment Authority (4.12%). The Saudi government and other inves­tors have small stakes in APC. At the end of 2000, the shareholders’ equity amounted to JD 275.1 million ($390 million), an increase of 4.2% over 1999.

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Two Asian milestones

Summary

The latest orders received by Krupp Fördertechnik for its tailor-made bulk fertilizer reclaimers are particularly significant, as the installations in Indonesia and China will be at the largest urea plants in Asia. The need to ensure a smooth flow of product from plant to customer are especially pressing, given the scale of the investment, but the German engineering company is ready to meet this demand, having recently installed the bulk handling systems at the Profertil complex in Argentina.

Abstract

The German bulk handling technology company, Krupp Förder­technik GmbH, has received two orders for installations at fertilizer distribution centres in Asia. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) of Japan has placed an order for a portal reclaimer, which will be used in the urea storage system being developed on behalf of the Indonesian fertilizer producer, P T Pupuk Kalimantan Timur at its facility on the island of Borneo. A new 1,000 t/d ammonia and 1,725 t/d urea complex is currently under construction at the site. The reclaimer has been designed to operate at a capacity of 1,100 t/h with a bulk density of 0.73 t/m3 and a granule size of 2-4 mm. The reclaimer will be mounted on rail tracks with a gauge of 42.4 m, enabling it to travel at a maximum operating speed of 4.2 m/minute and a fast travel speed of 10 m/minute.

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PPIC pushes for ­balanced nutrition

Summary

Efforts to encourage more balanced fertilisation as India struggles to raise food output to meet the needs of a burgeoning population have proved frustratingly slow, as Dr. Sam Portch, Vice President of the PPIC India Programme explains in this interview with David Hayes.

Abstract

India’s rapidly growing population presents the government with the challenge of raising agricultural production to feed the large population increase expected in the coming decades. Several international organisations and development groups are working with the government and others trying to modernise agricultural science and practices to increase crop production using existing farmland. Growing industrialisation and population overcrowding have caused more farmland to be used for construction for housing, industrial development and infrastructure.

Overseas organisations working in India to help improve farming practices include the Potash & Phosphate Institute (PPI) and the Potash & Phosphate Institute of Canada (PPIC). PPI/PPIC worked with the government and others in the 1980s to set up the Potash Research Institute of India, focusing on basic potassium (K) research with limited outreach. More recently, in 1990, PPIC initiated the PPIC India Programme after receiving appropriate Indian government approvals, using funds from the Canadian government’s Western Diversification Programme. This has been designed to help increase potash exports while improving India’s agricultural production.

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Mustang Tampa seizes the moment

Summary

Since its establishment four years ago, Mustang Tampa, Inc. has accumulated an astonishing record of success in winning orders from blue-chip companies in the fertilizer and process industries. Mustang Tampa has gathered a top-calibre team to provide full-service engineering, procurement and construction management services, and its burgeoning order book is testimony to the impact the ­company has made in such a short period of time in a highly competitive sector.

Abstract

As part of its strategy of moving into higher-margin business areas, Potash Corp. of Saskat­chewan (PCS) is increasing its commitment to the phosphate sector by developing its feed and industrial businesses, with the goal of attaining a 50:50 split between fertilizer and non-fertilizer products. The year 2000 saw this strategy gain momentum, as PCS acquired the remaining businesses of Albright & Wilson, as well as a feed phosphate plant in Brazil. Meanwhile, at the PCS Phosphates complex at Aurora, North Carolina, PCS announced that it would develop a state-of-the-art feed phosphates plant that would be the lowest-cost de-fluorinated phosphate (DFP) plant in North America. The Aurora complex has only recently come into the PCS portfolio, having been acquired in March 2001.

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Moving solids – new ideas

Summary

David Leyshon reports on two new bulk minerals transport systems that could provide a flexible and environment-friendly alternative to existing methods for shifting phosphate rock out of the mine

Abstract

The Florida Institute of Phosphate Research has sponsored the de­mon­stration of two new mechanisms for moving various phosphatic materials. The final report for one plan, “Electromagnetic Transport Systems for the Phosphate Industry”, was issued early in 2001. The second innovative system, the Rail-Veyor™, has been demonstrated in a test loop at Cargill’s Bartow facility in Florida since early in 2000.

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Moving ahead in the fields

Summary

Sulphur is an essential plant nutrient for all plants. Most crops will remove 40-75 kg SO3/ha. Uptake by the crop will be greater than this as some S will remain in the roots and stubble. Sulphur deficiencies are increasing throughout the world and now occur on a wide range of crops, including oilseed rape, cereals and grass grown for sileage. The Sulphur Institute (TSI) is playing a leading role in promoting S as a vital plant nutrient, but as explained in this review by Don Messick, TSI's Director – Agricultural & Market Studies Programs, rising sulphur ­ deficiencies threaten to become a limiting factor in the drive towards global food security.

Abstract

Sulphur is often called the fourth major plant nutrient after NPK because most crops require as much S as P, with an average removal rate by crops of between 40-75 kg SO3/ha. Sulphur performs many important functions in the plant, similar to N. It is vital for the syntheses of proteins, oils and vitamins and promotes nitrogen fixation and nitrate reduction in plants. However, the world is faced with increasing nutrient imbalances. While the use of sulphur fertilizers is expanding worldwide, it may not be sufficient to keep pace with the uptake of this vital nutrient from the soil. Increasing S removal from higher crop production and the reduction in SO2 emissions, as well as changes in the availability in S-containing materials, has led to a rapid rise in sulphur deficiencies in agriculture throughout the world. For example, S deposition in the United Kingdom has fallen to less than 25 kg SO3/ha, at about 15% of the 1980 level, leading to large areas of S deficiency.

The intensification of agricultural production has resulted in nutrient imbalances becoming increasingly common in many regions. For long, concern about such imbalances centred on P and K, as the fertilizer use of these nutrients lagged behind that of N. However, as empirical studies demonstrate that adequate sulphur supplies are essential to ensure efficient N and P utilisation, sulphur may now be regarded as a primary nutrient in its own right.

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PCS Yumbes reaches full capacity

Summary

Just two years after taking over the project from KAP, PCS Yumbes is celebrating achieving near capacity levels of production and shipping products around the world. Mark Boulanger, Vice President Sales, PCS Yumbes, explains what lies behind this success.

Abstract

When production got under way at the PCS Yumbes S.C.M. facility in the Ata­cama Desert, northern Chile, two years ago, PotashCorp became the only primary fertilizer producer in North America to become involved in the potassium nitrate market. PotashCorp took over the project from KAP Resources Ltd. in 1999. The Yumbes site is located 29 km from the Pacific coast and 145 km north of the port of Antofagasta.

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Causes for optimism

Summary

The 2001 Fertilizer Industry Round Table was inevitably affected by recent tragic events, but it is a superb testament to the resilience and determination of the participating fertilizer industry executives that the event lived up to its traditional standards of enquiry and sharing information. Also encouraging were the up-beat forecasts of the leading industry market analysts, as described in this review.

Abstract

t was perhaps inevitable that attendance at the 51st Fertilizer Industry Round Table meeting at the Trade Winds Resort, St. Pete Beach, on Florida’s Pinellas Coast, USA would reflect the aftermath of 11 September, but only one speaker and session chairman fell by the wayside due to restrictions imposed by some companies on executive travel. Security reasons also dictated the cancellation of the planned visit to Florida Power & Light Water Supply. In every other respect, the Round Table was well attended, and speakers and delegates alike displayed a commendable commitment to making the event its customary success as a vital forum for extending the fertilizer industry’s frontiers of knowledge. The founding fathers would have been proud!

In his welcoming address, Donald P. Day, Day’s Consulting Services, commented that dark clouds were hanging over the fertilizer industry and the world at large: it was necessary to address the storm that was coming, and the storm that had just passed. However, there remains a fundamental need to supply the world’s population with food and nutrition – the very raison d’être of the fertilizer industry. The industry’s horizons will continue to expand, Day said, not only in traditionally cultivated areas, but perhaps ultimately in undersea farming and on new planets.

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IPI promotes ­balanced nutrition in Argentina

Summary

Argentina is an important producer of cereals, oil seed and beef, with large, fertile land resources. During the past decade, fertilizer consumption has risen significantly for N and P fertilizers, but the K nutrient has been neglected by comparison. The risk of unbalanced fertilisation and ­depletion of potassium from some soils poses a risk in the future for sustaining high levels of commodity exports, while the quality and value of these exports are also being jeopardised. The International Potash Institute (IPI) joined forces with two Argentinean institutions to address this issue by convening a workshop that discussed the current uses and needs for K in Argentina for various crops. The programme is reviewed below.

Abstract

The International Potash Institute (IPI), Basel, Switzerland, joined forces with the Facultad de Agronomía, Universidad de Buenos Aires (FAUBA) and Proyecto Fertilizar, Instituto Nacional de Tecnologia Agro­pecuaria (INTA) to organise the 1st Workshop on Potassium in Argentina’s Agricultural Systems. The symposium took place on 20-21 November 2001 at the Faculty of Agronomy, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, attracting 70 delegates. These included scientists from a wide range of countries, notably the United States, Germany, Israel, Russia and Brazil. Other delegates included eminent scientists, researchers, students and professionals who shared an interest in enhancing balanced fertilisation in Argentina. 

The workshop addressed the relevant aspects of the importance of potassium in balanced fertilisation for modern agriculture in Argentina. The workshop discussed the current uses and needs for potassium use in Argentina in the various crops, together with the consequences of the long-term imbalance in fertilisation, and modern fertilizer application methods.

The four technical sessions covered potassium in soils, potassium for annual crops, potassium for perennial crops and application, and the use of potassium fertilizers. All aspects of potassium nutrition were discussed. A total of 21 lectures were delivered during the two days and a poster session was also held. The programme also included a field trip for participants, which took place on 22-23 November. The trip focused on practical questions concerning crop management and fertilisation of the main agricultural crops of the Pampas region.

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