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A premium on engineering quality

Summary

A century of providing fertilizer production technology is an excellent cause for celebration, but A. J. Sackett & Sons will not be resting on its laurels. The company is proud of its pioneering role in developing many of the industry standards in granulation and blending technology, and as this review shows, Sackett intends to remain in the forefront of new developments in the next hundred years.

Abstract

The Baltimore, USA-based company, A. J. Sackett & Sons, was there at the beginning, and the list of pioneering fertilizer plants which have specified high-quality and heavyduty equipment from the company is a long one. Many industty standards in granulation equipment and blending units were set by Sackett, and the company has taken out nearly 200 patents on its equipment. The common thread throughout 100 years of technological progress has been the premium placed on engineering quality, and this has served the company well through all the many changes in market structure and the dynamics of fertilizer production and distribution.

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EFMA extends a welsome

Summary

The European Fertilizer Manufacturers' Association (EFMA) is an organisation whose mission goes beyond simply promoting the interests of its members. It addresses questions of health, safety and the environment, and it encourages the development of better-quality products in all these respects, as well as developing a very effective working relationship with the European Union regulatory authorities. Its views on a wide range of topics are sought by other international organisations, including the OECD and various United Nations agencies. This profile outlines some of the issues which EFMA addresses.

Abstract

The European Fertilizer Manufacturers' Association (EFMA) represents the major fertilizer manufacturers in Western Europe, and its members account for some 90% of the region's nitrogen fertilizer production capacity and 70% of phosphate fertilizer production. In 1995/96, EFMAmembers held about 70% ofthe Western European fertilizer market. Their market share has diminished since the mid-1980s, and the trade surplus which they enjoyed then has been eroded as the industry today faces an ever-rising deficit.

Rising imports are not the only challenge faced by EFMA's members. Since the late 1980s, fertilizer consumption in the European Union (EU) has fallen by some 25% - a decline which prompted a drastic and sometimes painful overhaul of the regional industry structure. The process of rationalisation in capacity and manpower levels continues, and in the past 3-4 years, a further 25% has been cut from aggregate production capacity, with the commensurate loss of around 20,000 jobs - 50% of the regional workforce. However, EFMA members have reaped benefits from this restructuring, and after several loss-making years, they have emerged as the most cost-efficient suppliers to Western European agriculture.

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Fertilizers from factory to farm

Summary

Robinson College, Cambridge was again the venue for the annual Fertiliser Society International Conference. Discussion at the meeting focused on developments in the handling of fertilizers from their manufacture to their final application on the land, under the three primary themes of logistics, blending and application. This review describes the papers presented at this keynote event.

Abstract

"Developments in Fertilizers from Production to Use"was the theme ofThe Fertiliser Society's International Conference, which was convened at Robinson College, Cambridge, UK on 12-13 December. The opening address by 0.]. Eilertsen, Director General of the European Fertilizer Manufacturers Association (EFMA), set the stage for the subsequent papers and discussion workshops, outlining the challenges which fertilizer producers will face in the years ahead, and the growing competitiveness of the international food sector. Fertilizer distribution systems have become increasingly sophisticated in the developed world, and much-needed attention is being paid to improving the efficiency of fertilizer distribution elsewhere. A new spirit of co-operation is . being signalled in the fertilizer sector, however, as EFMA prepares to welcome new members from the Central and Eastern European countries.

Keith Isherwood, of the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA), gave a comprehensive review of Fertilizer Supply from Factory to Farm. He observed that there are an infinite number of ways of getting fertilizers from the plant to the farm, with many possible combinations of transport, storage, handling and the form of the fertilizer, among other permutations, and every situation is in effect unique. There is no "best" system, but the cost of getting fertilizers from the plant to the farm continues to account for a substantial proportion of the farm-delivered cost. Furthermore, while the manufacturer may have very little scope for making further economies in the production costs, the distribution system may offer unexploited opportunities.

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Moving to a faster tempo

Summary

British Sulphur convenes its Eighth Fertilizer Latin America Conference and Exhibition against a most favourable background of economic boom and rising fertilizer consumption and investment throughout the region. Not only is capital being attracted to new production facilities, but longoverdue attention is also being paid to developing distribution networks which will be commensurate with the higher levels of fertilizer usage. In all, Latin American and Caribbean countries are emerging as world-ranking players in international fertilizer markets.

Abstract

Latin America is no longer an economically embattled region, but is being increasingly measured in favourable comparison with the dynamic economies of South East Asia. Not only are the prospects for sustained economic growth excellent, but the countries of the region are winning plaudits for sound economic management.

Investors throughout the world have been keen to plough money into major projects in Chile, Argentina and Brazil, and these countries are enjoying unprecedented rates of growth in both the agricultural and industrial sectors. They are more cautious about the prospects for Mexico and Venezuela, but here too, business confidence is rising. Mexico in parricular is on the fast track to recovery, having cleared an emergency $12.5 billion US loan, which helped the country to stave off default in early 1995. Most analysts foresee the Mexican economy growing by at least 4.5% in 1997, while inflation is expected to fall from 28% at the end of 1996 to around 15% this year. Brazil, too, can look forward to a similar rate of growth in 1997, and the prognosis is good for Argentina and Chile.

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Systems keep face

Summary

Improvements in fertilizer bag handling and bagging systems continue at a rapid pace, as fertilizer suppliers seek higher throughput capabilities and increased weighing accuracy. This article reviews recent developments and innovations.

Abstract

Fertilizer distributed in bags are easy to transport, store, measure and label. They also protect against moisture and limit segregation. Farmers expect bagged product to provide a guarantee ofweight and quality, and bags also help to protect the customer against adulteration ofthe product. However, the bagging operation adds to the cost of supplying the finished product, and requires a major capital investment in the appropriate equipment. The alternative of handling in bulk facilitates mechanical handling, thus reducing the effort and labour required. But transport and storage in bulk must be well managed, as the risk of product loss is high.

The technology for bagging units has kept pace with market developments, and bagging units are increasingly an integral part of modern, large-scale blending plants. These units can range from simple manually-operated facilities, to the latest load cell computer-controlled systems. These systems are geared to high throughputs, and require associated storage facilities and mechanical handling equipment (including conveyors and elevators).

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A fast-track evolution

Summary

Precision farming is perhaps the next great frontier in world agriculture. While the concept needs to be evaluated further, it does appear to offer benefits in terms of higher productivity and the more efficient use of fertilizer inputs, as well as embracing sound environmental practices. At present, precision agriculture is on the point of take off in both North America and Western Europe, as farmers begin to realise the value of site-specific nutrient management. Progress - and potential pitfalls - are evaluated in this review.

Abstract

The term "Precision Farming" is in reality a relative one. This was the view expressed by C. J. Dawson, ofChris Dawson &Associates, in his paper on Implications of Precision Farming for Fertilizer Application Policies, which he presented at the 1996 Fertiliser Society Annual Meeting. While current interest in the topic has intensified in recent years, it should not be inferred that precision is absent from existing fertilizer application practices, he contended. Indeed, farmers have come to recognise that considerable variation exists in the nutrient content of fields, and they have for long practised a measure of precision in rectifYing this.

The development which has put consideration of an even more meticulous application of nutrients is the acceptance that significant variability can exist within any given field. Indeed, as Chris Dawson notes, where measurements of variability have been made, it has often been found that the variability within fields is far greater than the variation between the means of different fields. While soil scientists have been aware of such variations for some time, it is only now becoming possible to measure some of this variability and to map areas which show the differences.

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