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Publication > Issue > Articles

Planting seeds of hope

Summary

The International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA) has designated 2006 as its Year for Africa. For too long, Africa especially the sub-Saharan regions has suffered from poor food security, and swathes of malnutrition have persisted throughout the continent. A new report by the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) shows that a fundamental cause of the problem has been the long-term degradation of the agricultural soils and a failure to replenish the nutrients required for successful cultivation. While the present scenario is bleak, there is real hope that the first proper foundations are being laid to enable Africa finally to enjoy its own Green Revolution.

Abstract

In addition to holding its 74th Annual Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, IFA has declared that 2006 is its Year for Africa. Two other important events seek to address the challenge of eliminating the hunger and poverty that continue to blight the lives of everyday people throughout the continent: on 1 January 2006, the United Nations launched its International Year of Deserts and Deserti­fication, with the goals of raising global awareness of the advancing deserts, seeking ways to safeguard the biological diversity of the arid lands that cover one third of the planet, and protecting the knowledge and traditions of the 2 billion people affected by the phenomenon. Most of these people live in sub-Saharan Africa.

The second significant event is the African Fertilizer Summit. This will take place in Abuja, Nigeria from 9-13 June 2006, under the auspices of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), with organisational support from the highly respected International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC).

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A flame that burns brightly

Summary

A glorious spring day in Paris was the perfect occasion to celebrate the memory of Pierre Becker and the contribution he made to mankind's wellbeing. The occasion was the presentation of the Pierre Becker Memorial Award to someone who has made a signal contribution to the wellbeing of millions of people in India Dr. Milkha Aulakh of Punjab Agricultural University.

Abstract

"In recognition of your outstanding contribution to the understanding, exploit­ation and application of phosphate resources, the Publisher, Staff and Editorial Board of Fertilizer International honour Dr. Milkha S. Aulakh. The quality of your re­search, originality and practical application has justly earned the lasting admiration of your many friends in the fertilizer world.”

This is the citation of the 2005 Pierre Becker Memorial Award that was made to Dr. Milkha Aulakh in Paris on 27 March 2006 by John French, Publisher of Fertilizer International. The occasion was a lively and convivial one, and the prestige of the occasion was enhanced by the participation of Luc Maene, Director General of IFA, Marie Louise Becker, widow of Pierre, and Edouard Costemend, Director of Ad Presse International and British Sulphur Publish­ing’s representative in France.

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Yara invests at Ravenna

Summary

When fertilizer producers invest in new bulk handling equipment, they require speedy and efficient operations that meet the highest safety and environmental standards. When Yara International needed to upgrade the shiploading facilities at its Ravenna fertilizer complex, it turned to the Italian specialist company, Bedeschi SpA.

Abstract

Yara International has commissioned a new shiploader at its facility at Ravenna, Italy. The state-of-the-art facility is the latest to have been supplied to the fertilizer industry by Bedeschi SpA.

Yara’s Ravenna fertilizer complex is located on a 23 ha site near the north east coast of Italy and is connected to the Adriatic Sea by the Candiano Canal, some 10 km from the centre of the city of Ravenna. The site comprises three nitric acid plants, an AN/CAN fertilizer plant, an ammonium nitrate solutions plant and an NPK facility. Ammonia is supplied by pipeline from Yara’s plant at Ferrara. Production at Ravenna averages around 400,000 t/a of nitrates and 300,000 t/a NPK fertilizers. Much of this production is shipped to customers throughout Italy as well as in adjacent Adriatic and Mediterranean markets.

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Getting back on track?

Summary

Nigeria has for long been blighted with a poor reputation internationally, especially in the field of business transparency. Likewise, the country's agricultural sector has performed badly. However, the return to democracy in 1999 has paved the way for economic and political reform, and Nigeria shows good signs of finally getting to grips with many of its long-standing problems, including an underperforming fertilizer sector.

Abstract

The forthcoming Africa Fertilizer Summit will put Nigeria in the spot­light, as the event will be convened in the federal capital city of Abuja between 9-13 June 2006. Many of sub-Saharan Africa’s well-documented problems in obtaining food security are encapsulated in Nigeria, but the country should not be interpreted as drifting beyond redemption. Indeed, there are many encouraging factors to be taken into account, especially as Nigeria is a country with abundant resources.

Nigeria is the most populated country in Africa, with an estimated population of 128.8 million in 2005. GDP is estimated to have totalled $ 132.1 billion in 2005, making Nigeria the 55th most prosperous country in the world, but with a per capita income of just $ 1,000/year, Nigeria’s rank slips to 213th. Nigeria’s mineral resources include oil, coal and tin, while the agricultural economy is based on groundnuts, palm oil, cocoa, citrus fruits, maize, millet, cassava, yams and sugar cane.

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Riding out the storms

Summary

The Republic of South Africa, host to the 2006 IFA Annual Conference, has one of the continent's most dynamic agricultural sectors and a long-established fertilizer industry. All is not entirely well, however, as discussed in this review.

Abstract

Fertilizer consumption in South Africa totalled 1.65 million tonnes product (513,842 tonnes nutrient) in 2005 – a fall of 22 % on the 2004 total. This exceptionally low figure reversed four consecutive years of rising consumption and according to Fertilizer Society of South Africa (FSSA) statistics, this was the lowest total for over 40 years. Several factors contributed to this setback, including local drought conditions, while the high value of the Rand depressed agricultural exports and farmers’ incomes. Escalating fertilizer prices in international markets and rising energy and raw material costs were also passed on to the local farmers, further depressing demand. However, this setback is widely seen as just a temporary blip, and as South Africa enjoys an abundant supply of numerous resources, has well-developed financial and energy sectors, as well as a good infrastructure, the country is expected to remain a beacon of progress throughout the continent.

South Africa’s large agricultural sector can underpin the country’s well-established fertilizer industry, and it remains a net exporter of farming products. Unlike many other sub-Saharan countries, which are struggling to develop rudimentary agricultural marketing systems, South Africa can boast having almost 1,000 agricultural co-operatives and agribusinesses, and in each year between 2000 and 2004, agricultural exports constituted 8 % of South Africa’s total exports. The agricultural industry accounts for around 30 % of total formal employment, relatively low compared with other African countries, and it contributes around 2.6 % of South Africa’s GDP. However, much of the land is arid, and only 15 % can be used for crop production.

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Plants get clean and lean

Summary

Sulphuric acid producers around the world are operating at full capacity in response to buoyant global demand. The industry is also increasing its efficiencies while addressing major concerns about its contribution to the environment. Some of the key issues and technological advances are described here.

Abstract

The production of sulphuric acid accounts for around 90 % of world sulphur-in-all-forms use, the vast majority being produced on site for captive use. The main component of internationally traded sulphuric acid is by-product material from base metals smelters, produced as a means of reducing sulphur dioxide emissions. (World Sulphuric Acid Situ­ation, Mike Kitto, British Sulphur Con­sult­ants. Paper presented at Sulphur 2005, October 2005.) Out of a total world output of 185.0 million tonnes H2SO4 in 2004, world production of smelter acid totalled 46.3 million tonnes H2SO4, representing 25 % of total new acid production. Fig. 1 gives a breakdown of world sulphuric acid production by raw material.

World smelter acid production rose from 29.0 million tonnes H2SO4 in 1994 to 46.3 million tonnes H2SO4 in 2004, an increase of 17.4 million t/a at a compound growth rate of 4.7 %/year. This far exceeded the rate of output growth of base metals during this period and reflected the added pressure on smelter operators to improve their sulphur capture efficiency. Further substantial increases in smelter acid production are expected during the next ten years, to reach a forecast 70.3 million tonnes H2SO4 by 2014 – an increase of 23.9 million tonnes at a compound growth rate of 4.2 %/year. This is a lower rate of growth than the 4.7 %/year recorded between 1994 and 2004. One reason is that more and more smelters are achieving satisfactory levels of sulphur capture of above 90 %. The rate of increase of acid production is therefore becoming more of a function of base metals demand.

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World trade data at the click of a mouse

Summary

Global Trade Information Services (GTIS) is the premier supplier of international trade data software and offers the most comprehensive and up-to-date collection of international merchandise trade statistics all derived exclusively from official government sources. Lynda Davies interviewed GTIS Industry Expert Gerald Tarbert to learn more.

Abstract

Global Trade Information Services (GTIS) is recognised as the premier supplier of international merchandise data on the Internet, presently publishing the official merchandise trade data of 67 countries. Corporations, governments, business associations, universities and libraries, as well as trade lawyers and consultants in more than 250 cities and 50 countries, today use the company’s products to develop a better understanding of trade flows.

As recently as the late 1980s, however, only a few governments, large corporations and institutions had the resources to access and compile world trade data. Even then, the process was time-consuming and fraught with difficulties and inaccuracies. For many organisations, it was extremely difficult to make a comparison of which markets specific countries were exporting to or importing from for a particular product. The data existed, but it did not exist in a dependable and efficient model.

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A flying start in Geneva

Summary

Global Fertilizers is a pioneering conference that looks beyond fertilizers. It is set to become an annual event, reflecting the changing dynamics of how fertilizer trade is conducted.

Abstract

The first Global Fertilizers Confer­ence and Exhibition at the Presi­dent Wilson Hotel, Geneva be­tween 15-17 February 2006 was a new addition to an already well-filled international industry calendar. This conference brought a very different perspective from other events familiar to fertilizer executives, and as such it was a succes d’estime. “Well attended and professionally organised.” “A good mix of delegates from the trade, banking and service industries.” “Interesting and well structured programme of papers on a variety of subjects.” “Quality events in comfortable surroundings with ample time to meet clients.” This is a sample of the compliments which participants at Global Ferti­lizers 2006 paid the organisers, Global Com­modities Group.

Andrew Osborne, Managing Director of the Global Commodities Group, explained the rationale for this latest fertilizer conference. “There have been many changes in fertilizer trading in recent years and in the nature of trading,” he said, and he recognised the need for a specific conference in Europe that would reflect the newly evolving dynamics that are attracting new participants to international trade in fertilizers and changing the nature of that trade, as in other commodities.

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Vignettes and visions for the next decade

Summary

Vietnam's impressive progress towards self-sufficiency in food production and its emergence as a major exporter of coffee and other added value products has been accompanied by the development of an indigenous fertilizer industry. Foreign-owned companies have gained a niche in a market where most domestic industry remains under state control. Fertilizer production in Vietnam is poised to expand further, as described by David Hayes, and offshore gas reserves are being harnessed as feedstock to underwrite this expansion in production capacity.

Abstract

Vietnam’s agricultural production has grown rapidly during the past two decades, assisted by modern farming technology, including the greater use of fertilizers, better irrigation, improved crop varieties and integrated pest management. Farm output is expected to continue growing in the future to meet rising domestic consumption and to supply the forecasted rise in food exports as post harvest storage and handling technology improve.

Increasing farm output will create additional demand for chemical fertilizers as awareness of fertilizers’ commercial benefits increases in the farming community. But for the moment, Vietnam is still a highly price sensitive fertilizer market, where low cost, lower quality locally blended fertilizers and imported material still account for most fertilizer use.

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