Monday, 2 December 2019

Constructive dialogue the way forward on Western Sahara


Ravensdown has collaborated successfully with the Rail and Maritime Transport Union so that members of that union could present a letter to the Master of the Federal Crimson as it unloads in Napier this week.

“We’re aware of some of the RMTU members’ concerns about this particular shipment of phosphate rock,” said Greg Campbell, Ravensdown Chief Executive. “While we disagree on this particular topic, the relationship with the unions is very important to us.”

The ship’s Master agreed today that the presentation by RMTU members could go ahead. “So many New Zealand workers are involved in bringing in essential nutrients and exporting the food that is created using those nutrients. The food and fibre exported through the ports would decline significantly without phosphate cargoes like this,” added Greg.

Morocco is by far the largest of the dozen or so exporting countries with 70 per cent of the world’s known phosphate reserves. New Zealand is not alone in doing business with Western Sahara. In January, the EU agreed a new trade agreement with Morocco and Western Sahara because of the benefits of trade to the local people.

New Zealand imports less than a quarter of the phosphate rock from the mine in Western Sahara—the other countries importing from Western Sahara are Japan, India, Brazil and China.

“Whether it’s the potential dust or cadmium in Peruvian rock or the lack of solubility of South African rock, the reality is that there is no perfect source for this strategically essential soil nutrient,” said Greg Campbell.

The UN has a framework about using resources from areas like this where the sovereignty is currently undecided. “Ravensdown does its due diligence on its supplier (called OCP) and that supplier details how they help the local people - they are the biggest employer of Saharawi in Western Sahara,” said Greg Campbell.

“The compassion of the protesters for those held in Algerian-supported camps is undeniable. But what the protesters are proposing also puts at risk the livelihoods of the Saharawi who are employed by OCP,” added Greg.

“I’ve met personally with the activists who are talking about disrupting the legal unloading of this cargo. While any intended protest action at any site is beyond our control, we would always expect protest organisers to consider the safety of all involved.”

Ravensdown acknowledges the right to protest but has consistently stated the trade is legal and welcomed by the Saharawi who are employed at the Phosboucraa mine.

Ravensdown supports the efforts by the UN to seek a political solution of the dispute. In the meantime, the co-operative is doing what it can to explore additional sources of phosphate rock and continues to encourage OCP to do what it can for the local people.


  • As of today, phosphate rock from Western Sahara provides the best agronomic, environmental and economic performance for New Zealand.
  • The export market for this strategically crucial input is dominated by Morocco.
  • New Zealand exported a third of a billion dollars’ worth of products to Morocco between 2011 and 2015.