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Fertigation and more

Summary

Fertigation is the key factor in modern irrigated agriculture and is acknowledged as a highly advanced and efficient method of delivering plant nutrients. Further advances in application technology and in tailor-made products make this an unbeatable combination.

Abstract

Fertigation combines water and fertilizer application through drippers or microjets to meet the needs of the plant by applying them in the rooting zone. As the nutrient requirements of the plant change, the nutrient quantity and ratio can also be easily changed. The technique is extremely efficient, allowing for the better use of water – an increasingly important issue throughout the world, especially as agriculture is the largest user of water. Israel has led the way in developing the concept of fertigation, and 75% of the irrigated area there is fertigated. Fertigation is also extensively used in California, Spain, Turkey and China.

Micro-irrigation systems provide a water-use efficiency of between 80-90%, while other irrigation practices have a water-use efficiency of only 40-50%. Drip irrigation places the water close to the roots, thus reducing the volume of water soil and water loss through evaporation. During the past 20 years, according to estimates by Yara International, the acreage under drip irrigation worldwide has grown from 0.4 million ha in the early 1980s to over 4 million ha at present. Growth has been sustained at between 6-12%/year.

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Malaysia: more nutrients, please!

Summary

Oil palm and other plantation crops are the backbone of this thrusting country's agricultural sector, and increasing uses are being found for this high-value cash crop, including a growing requirement for industrial grade palm oil. The rapid growth has led to specific nutrient requirements. We take a closer look to find out who supplies what.

Abstract

While Malaysia’s economy has made very rapid advances during the past two decades, having developed an advanced high-tech industrial sector which accounts for 48% of overall GDP, agriculture remains important, contributing 12% of the country’s GDP and providing employment for 16% of the population. Malaysia’s agriculture is dominated by large-scale plantations, originally established in the era of British control, and three main crops – palm oil, rubber and cocoa – have dominated Malaysia’s agricultural exports ever since. In addition to these products, Malaysian farmers produce fruits and vegetables for the domestic market, including bananas, coconuts and rice.

Malaysia was for long the world’s leading producer of natural rubber. Global production of natural rubber totalled 9.73 million tonnes in 2007, out of a total rubber production of 23.49 million tonnes. India is now the principal producer of natural rubber, while Malaysia supplied 1.12 million tonnes – 13% down on the record output of 1.28 million tonnes in 2006 and the lowest total since 2003.

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Rollin' at St. Louis

Summary

Under the theme of Rollin' on the River, Lange-Stegmann and Agrotain International invited industry leaders, customers, representatives of the media and other VIP guests to the grand opening of their St. Louis Urea Center and Stabilized Nitrogen Center. This unique combination of the first inland urea import terminal and the first urea manufacturing plant in the United States to use phase modification opens a new chapter for the company. The inauguration was the occasion for major celebrations.

Abstract

On 16 September 2008 in a sunny St. Louis, Missouri, Agrotain International LLC along with parent company Lange-Stegmann celebrated the grand opening of its $20 million expansion project, the Stabilized Nitrogen Center. Incorporating a unique granulation production facility, the Stabilized Nitrogen Center is adjacent to Lange-Stegmann’s St. Louis Urea Center (which was described in Fertilizer International, May/June 2008, pp24-26) and forms the second phase of the group’s transformation into a major league supplier of high-quality fertilizers. The two facilities mark the debuts of the first US urea plant to use phase modification and the nation’s largest inland urea import terminal.

With a storage capacity of 63,000 s.tons, the St. Louis Urea Center has been admiringly described as “a cathedral to fertilizer.” It has been built to meet the growing demand for imported urea and has the ability to turn inventory four times per month. It forms a key link in supplying fertilizers to farmers throughout the US Midwestern heartland.

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Still in the driver's seat

Summary

Asia has been driving the increased global demand for potash. China, India and South East Asia already use 48% of the world's fertilizers. However, this region continues to lag in relative terms in its use of potash, accounting for only 35% of global K2O use. This is a reflection of imbalanced fertilizer use throughout Asia – an imbalance that agricultural policy-makers are now beginning to address. Thus, East Asia and the Indian sub-continent of South Asia are expected to account for two-thirds of the total forecast growth, with particularly strong rates of growth in the East Asian countries of China, Indonesia, Malay­sia and Vietnam. While an emphasis on improved food security is expected to boost the overall growth in fertilizer demand throughout the region, the drive to increase export sales of cash crops (above all oil palm) is a key factor that will stimulate potash consumption.

Abstract

These factors are expected to result in an overall growth of 3.3%/year in the demand for potash in East Asia between 2007/08 and 2012/13. An even faster growth rate of 4.2%/year is forecast in the countries of the Indian sub-continent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka).

India’s XIth Five Year Plan envisages an increase in potash consumption from 2.52 million tonnes K2O in 2006/07 to 3.30 million tonnes K2O by 2011/12 – an increase of 30%. These forecasts by the Indian government are based on assumptions of a rise in population by 15 million people per year, increasing per capita incomes and changing food habits.

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Can China achieve potash self-sufficiency?

Summary

Self-sufficiency in all major nutrients has long been the official goal. Potash remains the final frontier in that respect. How far can the country's indigenous resources help close the gap between domestic demand and supply, and what are the implications for the current leading suppliers to this keystone market?

Abstract

China is today the world’s largest consumer of potash but its lack of sufficient potash resources re­quires it to import between 8-9 million t/a. China’s output of potash has averaged around 3 million t/a in recent years and meets just 30% of domestic needs. The huge gap between the supply and demand of a strategic material has exercised the minds of the Chinese authorities, which have attached great importance to the development, utilisation and procurement of potash resources. Priority is being given to raising the domestic industry’s output, but the authorities recognise that a gulf continues to exist between the Chinese potash industry and the leading international suppliers in terms of production volumes, quality, production processes, technology and management. Can the Chinese potash producers close this gap?

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Tight balances set to continue

Summary

In recent years, tight market conditions for merchant phosphoric acid and firming demand in the leading consuming and importing countries have generated interest in several new projects. What impact will these projects have on overall market equilibrium?

Abstract

The recent boom in phosphate fertilizer markets has broken with precedent in one noteworthy respect: despite the record-breaking levels achieved earlier this year, there has been no stampede to announce new grassroots projects or expansion projects for merchant phosphoric acid. Those projects which have been announced are primarily joint-venture tie-ins with contract customers. This is in marked contrast to the potash sector. The lessons of previous market booms therefore seem to have been learnt and demand and supply in the global phosphate are expected to remain evenly balanced in the short- to medium-term. Even though a typical lead-time of 3-5 years applies to bringing new phosphate projects on stream, no-one has ventured to announce a major new scheme in the hope of catching the boom.

Indeed, the past decade has been relatively quiet for phosphate capacity developments. However, in the previous period, between 1995 and 2007, the phosphate sector was marked by chronic over-capacity, weak growth in demand and import substitution in the major consuming countries, most notably in China. (Global Fertilizers and Raw Materials Supply and Supply/ Demand Balances [2008-2012], Michel Prud’homme, IFA [May 2008].)

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World fertilizer industry: the leading performers

Summary

The international fertilizer industry has prospered as never before since the upturn in market prices in 2004/05. Previously characterised by low margins and - in many instances - weak profits or mounting losses and heavy indebtedness, the industry was seen as underperforming and fundamentally unattractive to investors. Since the revival in industry fortunes, certain companies have forged ahead, posting results that impressed financial analysts around the world and making their company shares must-buy stocks. Who have been the biggest winners, streaking ahead of the rest of the field in terms of profits, margins and returns on capital? The London-based consultancy and market research company Integer Research Ltd. publishes the Fertilizer Financial Insight, which answers these questions. We have pleasure in publishing some of the keynotes.

Abstract

The Fertilizer Financial Insight is the most in-depth financial analysis of the global fertilizer industry. Published by Integer Research Ltd., the report includes detailed financials for the world’s leading 100 listed, private and state-owned producers, including the key players from Russia, the Middle East and China. The report also covers recent developments, plant capacities, prospects and changes in ownership of the leading 60 companies, providing a true insight into the global fertilizer industry.

This report is supplemented by the Fertilizer Financial Bulletin, which provides quarterly financial data on 70 of the world’s leading fertilizer producers. By accessing the latest financial data in the bulletin, readers can track the most recent industry developments and see how changes in prices, volumes and production costs translate into company profitability.

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