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Tough targets

Summary

China must feed 22% of the world's population with 7% of the world's arable land. This has made food production a vital issue in China. In order to meet the basic requirements of 1.3 billion people, total grain output should reach 500 million tonnes by 2000. In this review, Prof. Xie Jian-chang, of the Institute of Soil Science, Academia Sinica, Nanjing, describes how fertilizers have played a vital role in increasing grain production and how the consumption of fertilizers has increased continuously in China in recent years. For the sustainable development of agriculture in the future, increasing fertilizer input will remain as one of the most important goals. At the same time, adjustments to the application ratios of the different nutrients and increased efficiency are required.

Abstract

China has a total land area of960 million ha. Arable land comprises 94.9 million ha, or just under 10% of this total. The total sown area for major farm crops in 1995 was 149.7 million ha, of which grain crops accounted for 73%, oil bearing crops 9%, cotton 4%, sugar plants 1%, vegetables 7%, and the rest 6%. The ratios of the sown area ofvarious food crops were 28% for rice, 26% for wheat, 21% for corn, 10% for beans, and 15% for the rest.

Fig.l shows the total output of the main food crops in China. Between 1985 and 1995, production of the main food crops has risen by 23%, from 379.1 million tonnes to 466.6 million tonnes. Output of rice increased by 10% duting this period, wheat by 19% and corn by 75%. Yields per hectare also showed an impressive increase, as average grain yields rose by 21% duting the past 11 years. Rice yields were up by 18%, wheat by 20% and corn by 36%. However, there remains much room for improvement, as is emphasised by grain yields per capita. The world average is 500 kg/capita, but China's best result duting the period under review was in 1990, when 393 kg/capita were obtained. This is much lower than the average in the more advanced countries.

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The vanguard for China

Summary

Sinochem is already renowned as a leading force in international fertilizer procurement. This is just one aspect of the company's operations in commodity trade, and plans are advanced to make Sinochem an active participant in new fields of business.

Abstract

"When Sinochem sneezes, fertilizer exporters catch a cold." Such a description may be an unfair exaggeration of the primary role which the statecontrolled fertilizer trading company plays in international markets, but there can be no doubt about the organisation's importance in helping to fulfil China's economic goals.

Sinochem this year celebrates its 47th birthday. It is a very different organisation today, and was most recently restructured in September 1994, when it reasserted its sole right to procure large tonnages of imported fertilizers and associated raw materials. Sinochem is internationally renowned as a clearly-focused buyer, and fertilizer export managers and traders regard it as without peer for the strong line it takes during contract negotiations. However, Sinochem is far from being a formidable, monolithic bargaining organisation: its offices throughout the world are staffed by a young, welleducated, and highly-motivated cadre of professionals-as FI was able to observe at first-hand during a recent visit to the London offices of Sinochem (United Kingdom) Ltd.

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New climate for business

Summary

Canpotex Limited-the Canadian offshore potash export consortium-has played a pivotal role in supplying China with the vitally-needed K nutrient, and in helping to promote its use among local farmers. Business boomed in recent years, but 1997 has been marked by a changed climate for business, as volumes have fallen short of previous levels. This is not a cause for despondency, as Howard Cummer, Vice President and Managing Director of Canpotex (Hong Kong) Limited explained to David Hayes.

Abstract

1997 marks a new era for China's fertilizer import industry, following China's decision to change its import strategy from large, long-term contracts to spot orders. This is to avoid the recurrence oflarge fertilizer stockpiles, as happened in 1995, which tied up valuable finance unnecessarily until the overhang in supply could be cleared the following year. Faced with unexpected new market conditions, foreign fertilizer suppliers still are getting used to the new business environment. This involves booking far smaller orders than previously and is making annual sales forecasts much harder to predict. All is not gloom, however, as China's agricultural sector appears in buoyant shape, with previously unpopular market reforms taking effect and helping promote the overall growth in agricultural output.

China's decision to use spot orders to better arrange fertilizer purchasing has been particularly noticed by China's largest foreign suppliers, including the Canadian potash export company, Canpotex Limited, which has been supplying China with potash since August 1972. Since shipping its first 70,000tonne order, Canpotex has supplied the Chinese market continuously, with the exception of two years-once in the mid-1970s and also in the mid-1980s, when booked consignments were delivered, bur no new orders were received.

"1997 is quite unique, as for many years we traditionally had contracts of 500,000 to 1 million tonnes with Sinochem/ Dohigh, which buys for most Chinese users. But in 1997, we have had no such contract as Chinais buyingspot," commented lIovvard Cummer, Managing Director of Canpotex (llong Kong) Ltd., "China has learned from the 1995 fertilizer inventory buildup. Now, it is matching contracts with the internal freight transport and inventory situation."

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Old habits die hard

Summary

Romania and its indigenous fertilizer industry present a somewhat perplexing case study. The political and economic complexion of the country appeared set to change after the revolution of 1989, but in reality, Romania displays many of the vestiges of the old regime. This situation also applies to the country's fertilizer sector, as the promise of a radical overhaul has yet to be achieved, and the leading fertilizer producers remain wedded to production for exportas directed by the government. This analysis of Romania's fertilizer sector by independent consultant David R. Briggs portrays an industry that remains, for now, in a time warp.

Abstract

At a time of growing ecological awareness and the rising movement among farmers in the west to eschew the use of chemical fertilizers, it is noteworthy that in Romania, there is a strong desire to modernise and develop the country's major fertilizer industry. The benefits that such a modernisation will bring to Romania's 3.5 million private-sector farmers remain elusive, however. Romanian farmers have not gone "green" by choice, but financial necessity and the lack of supplies on the domestic market have combined to ensure that manures and other readily-available organic products remain the primary source of fertilizer nutrients. The country has a substantial capacity to produce chemical fertilizers, but one legacy of the old communist regime has continued to this day, as a large percentage of the total fertilizer output is exported under complex countertrade arrangements in return for natural gas.

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The flash reaction alternative

Summary

A urea solution is often concentrated in a two-stage evaporation section. Stamicarbon bY, the licensing subsidiary of the Dutch DSM group, has developed a new method for concentrating the urea solution which is not only less sensitive to fouling, but also reduces the water content in the urea melt. This article, by Mrs. M. Rijkaert and Mr. A. Biermans, of DSM Research, describes the new process.

Abstract

In the second evaporation stage, dry urea is now obtained by flash evaporation: a urea solution is flashed to such pressures and temperatures that the liquid phase is not stable and therefore spontaneously will split into solid urea and water vapour. Urea is synthesised from ammonia and carbon dioxide. Ammonium carbamate is formed in the first stage and then partially converted to urea and water. The first step is fast and exothermic and goes nearly to completion. The second stage is slow and endothermic, and the equilibrium is reached at a CO2-conversion of about 65%, as follows:

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