Phosphate and potash are primarily used to produce fertilizers for crops and animal feed supplements. Only about 5 percent of world production is used in other applications, such as construction, soaps and detergents.
According to the US Geological Survey’s most recent report on phosphate rock, global phosphate demand is anticipated to increase from 44.5 million MT in 2016 to 48.9 million MT in 2020, driven by the world’s growing need for food.
Phosphate production is also expected to grow — in total, global phosphate output is set to increase by 2 percent through 2020. Most growth will be focused in Africa and the Middle East. In particular, expansions of phosphate rock mines and processing facilities in Morocco are expected to double the country’s production by 2020.
For now, investors interested in the phosphate space will want to keep an eye on current phosphate production. Below are the top phosphate-producing countries of 2016.
Mine production: 138 million MT
China’s phosphate production increased in 2016 to reach 138 million MT, and has been well ahead of all other countries for a number of years. However, China’s phosphate production in 2015 may have been overstated. According to fertilizer industry associations and trade data, the country produced 85 million MT in 2015 instead of the 100 million MT originally reported.
For its 2016 estimate, the US Geological Survey looked at official information from the National Bureau of Statistics of China. The country has 3.1 billion MT of phosphate in reserve, making its reserves the second-largest in the world.
2. Morocco and Western Sahara
Mine production: 30 million MT
Morocco and Western Sahara have 50 billion MT of phosphate in reserve, an amount that represents over 70 percent of global supply. Together they produced 30 million MT of phosphate last year.
Western Sahara is disputed territory between Morocco and the Polisario political movement, but last year a European court ruled that Western Sahara should not be considered part of Morocco in EU and Moroccan deals. Morocco’s Office Cherifien de Phosphate mines phosphate in the Moroccan-held part of Western Sahara, and recently that has led to disruptions in phosphate shipments.
3. United States
Mine production: 27.8 million MT
In 2016, US phosphate output increased slightly, rising from 27.6 million MT in 2015 to 27.8 million MT. The top phosphate-producing states of Florida and North Carolina accounted for over 75 percent of domestic output. The other 25 percent of US output came from Idaho and Utah. The US is tied with Australia for phosphate reserves — both countries have 1.1 billion MT of phosphate available, but Australia produced just 2.5 million MT in 2016.
Mine production: 11.6 Mt
Russia’s phosphate output decreased from 12.5 million MT in 2015 to 11.6 million MT in 2016. The country has 1.3 billion MT of phosphate in reserve.
Europe currently imports most of its phosphate from Morocco, where phosphate has high amounts of cadmium residue. However, proposed EU fertilizer requirements that would limit the amount of cadmium residue permitted in phosphate imports could benefit Russia in the future. Romanian center-right MEP Daniel Buda said, “[t]he only country that can produce cadmium respecting these limits is Russia.”
Mine production: 8.3 million MT
Jordan’s phosphate output jumped from 7.5 million MT in 2015 to 8.3 million MT in 2016. Its phosphate reserves stand at an estimated 1.2 billion Mt.
The country’s sole state-owned phosphate producer announced a sales agreement with Indian firms in March of this year. Jordan Phosphates Mines Company also signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of Bangladesh in February to export 270,000 MT of phosphate and phosphoric acid over three years.
Mine production: 6.5 million MT
Last year, Brazil produced 6.5 million MT of phosphate, a decrease from the 6.7 million MT it produced in 2015. Brazil has a booming agricultural sector and is the fifth-largest fertilizer consumer; demand in the country is expected to grow twice as fast as the rest of the world from now until 2025. Vale (NYSE:VALE) is the country’s largest producer of phosphate and nitrogen.
Mine production: 5.5 million MT
Egypt’s phosphate production remained unchanged in 2016 from the previous year. The country will gain a new phosphate plant in 2018. According to the US Geological Survey, Egypt’s phosphate reserves now sit at 1.2 billion MT.
8. Saudi Arabia and Peru (tied)
Mine production: 4 million MT
Both Saudi Arabia and Peru produced 4 million MT of phosphate last year. Peru’s 2016 phosphate production remained unchanged from the previous year, but Saudi Arabia’s production increased from 3.3 million MT in 2015.
A Saudi Arabian Mining chief executive told Reuters that the company expects to ramp up production this year at its Waad al-Shamal facility, with a plan to reach full capacity by 2019. Saudi Arabia holds 7 percent of the world’s phosphate reserves. Peru holds much less phosphate in reserve, and most is located at the Mantaro phosphate deposit. Stonegate Agricom’s (TSX:ST) Mantaro mine is located in that region.
9. Israel and Tunisia (tied)
Mine production: 3.5 million MT
Tunisia saw a slight decrease in phosphate production last year, putting out 3.5 million MT compared to 4 million MT the year before. The country plans to double its output in 2017, but has had trouble with protesters blocking shipments over the past few years.
In contrast, Israel saw a slight rise in phosphate production last year; it also has slightly greater reserves than Tunisia. Israel Chemicals (NYSE:ICL) is one of the major firms involved in fertilizer production in the country.
Mine Production: 2.8 million MT
Phosphate production in Vietnam increased slightly from 2.7 million MT in 2015 to 2.8 million MT in 2016. South Korean conglomerate Taekwang announced recently that it will build a fertilizer plant in the country that will be operational by late 2017.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Shaw, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.
This article is updated each year. Please scroll to the top for the most recent information.
Top Phosphorus Production by Country
By Kristen Moran, 2015
Using phosphate and potash in farming not only improves produce quality, but also increases crop yields. Hopes are thus high that demand for both fertilizers will continue to grow as the world’s population increases and the amount of arable land decreases.
Case in point: the US Geological Survey (USGS) expects that world consumption of phosphorus pentoxide fertilizers will increase to 48.2 million tonnes (Mt) by 2019, up from 43.7 Mt in 2015.
Luckily, the world’s phosphate rock production is expected to increase gradually as well, rising from 223 Mt in 2015 up to 255 Mt in 2019. Most of the increase will likely come from the expansion of existing mines in Morocco and the development of a new mine in Saudi Arabia. However, there are a number of other phosphate projects expected to come online by 2019 as well — they are in Algeria, Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Peru, Russia and Tunisia.
With those statistics in mind, it’s interesting to look at world phosphate production for 2015. Here’s a look at the 10 top phosphate-producing countries last year, as per data from the USGS. This article will be updated when new information is released.
Mine production: 100 Mt
China took the top spot in 2015, producing far more phosphate than any other country at 100 Mt; its phosphate production stayed flat relative to 2014. Besides Morocco and the Western Sahara, China holds the second-largest phosphate reserves in the world, with approximately 3.7 billion tonnes of phosphate.
2. Morocco and the Western Sahara
Mine production: 30 Mt
Despite having the world’s largest phosphate reserves at 50 billion tonnes, Morocco and the Western Sahara came in a distant second to China in terms of phosphate production for 2015, putting out just 30 Mt of phosphate rock. According to the FAO, Morocco may possess over half of the world’s reserves of phosphate.
3. United States
Mine production: 27.6 Mt
In 2015, US phosphate output saw a slight increase to 27.6 Mt from 25.3 Mt in 2014. Florida and North Carolina account for roughly 80 percent of phosphate rock production in the US.
Mine production: 12.5 Mt
Russia’s phosphate output increased from 11 Mt in 2014 to 12.5 Mt in 2015. The country also has large reserves at 1.3 billion tonnes and, as mentioned above, its production is expected to continue to increase in the coming years. Russia’s PhosAgro (MCX:PHOR) is the world’s largest producer of high-grade phosphate rock and is Europe’s largest producer of phosphate-based fertilizers.
Mine production: 7.5 Mt
Phosphate output from Jordan increased markedly last year, rising from 7.14 Mt in 2014 up to 7.5 Mt. This number will also likely increase moving forward as existing mines in the country undergo expansions. A book titled “Industrial Minerals & Rocks:Commodities, Markets, and Uses” states that Jordan’s primary natural resource is its phosphate deposits; they are also a major source of export income for the country. Jordan’s phosphate reserves stand at an estimated 1.3 billion tonnes.
Mine production: 6.7 Mt
Last year, Brazil produced 6.7 Mt of phosphate rock, an increase from 6.04 Mt in 2014. Given that Brazil is one of the fastest-growing agricultural sectors in the world, and currently imports roughly two-thirds of the potash and phosphate it needs from the US, Morocco and Russia, it is encouraging to see an increase in domestic phosphate output. However, the country’s demand has also been steadily increasing, meaning that the need for new mines to be developed there is growing even more.
Mine production: 5.5 Mt
Egypt’s phosphate production remained flat for 2015, at 5.5 Mt. An August 2014 report put out by the Central Metallurgical Research and Development Institute notes that newly discovered phosphate ores are now being mined from an area in the Nile valley. According to the USGS, Egypt’s phosphate reserves now sit at 1.25 billion tonnes.
Mine production: 4 Mt
Tunisia saw a slight increase in phosphate production last year, moving from 3.78 Mt in 2014 up to 4 Mt. As with Jordan and Russia, output of phosphate from Tunisia is expected to increase in the future with the expansion of existing mines. Still, the country’s output took a hit last year due to protests at Metaloui, which produces around 60 percent of Tunisia’s phosphate. According to Reuters, phosphate plants in Southern Tunisia were also affected by the protests, with four towns in the country’s main phosphate-producing region going on strike in May last year.
Mine production: 4 Mt
At 4 Mt of production, Peru tied with Tunisia in terms of phosphate production for 2015, increasing its output from 3.8 Mt in 2014. Peru currently has approximately 820 million tonnes of phosphate reserves.
10. Israel and Saudi Arabia
Mine production: 3.3 Mt
Finally, Israel and Saudi Arabia tied for 10th place on the list of the world’s top phosphate-producing countries for 2015. Israel saw a slight drop in production from 3.36 Mt of output in 2014, while Saudi Arabia bumped up its production from 3 Mt in 2014.
Interestingly, though neighboring country Jordan has phosphate reserves of 1.3 billion tonnes, Israel only holds 130 Mt of phosphate. According to the Geological Survey of Israel, the phosphate deposits of Israel belong to the late Cretaceous-early Eocene Mediterranean phosphate belt, which runs from Turkey to Morocco.
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