Friday 25 June 2021
After a year of trialling superphosphate manufacturing without any rock from PhosBoucraa, which is based in the non-self-governing territory of Western Sahara, the serious anticipated trade-offs became practically evident.
Specifically, when incorporating rock from Togo into the blend with phosphate from Vietnam and China, (Vinaapaco and GPC) the resulting superphosphate granules contained elevated cadmium and fluoride levels (though they remained within the industry’s limits). This occurred despite a massive effort to manage the extra supply risk and extensive changes to our blending/manufacturing operations.
With the limits of our consent requirements and industry-mandated minimums being approached, there are several risks that need to be managed. The higher fluoride levels can trigger consent issues at all our sites which monitor emissions like sulphur dioxide and fluoride very carefully while the second creates issues for farms – especially in the small number of farming areas where higher cadmium fertilisers were historically used.
As such, we have ordered a shipment from OCP/ PhosBoucraa and it will arrive from Western Sahara in August.
With solid demand for superphosphate over the past year as the country recovered from COVID-19, we know that farmers are depending on consistent, reliable supply and that its provision is deemed an essential service.
It has long been the position of the fertiliser industry that, when it comes to the phosphate supplied by PhosBoucraa, no other offers the same environmental, agronomic and supply surety benefits.
While this is especially true for New Zealand’s unique pasture-based farming with its need for more precise aerial topdressing, PhosBoucraa has reported increased sales in Brazil and Russia over the past 12 months.
Phosboucraa continues to be the largest employer of local and Saharawi people in the region and has an exemplary record on sustainability. All profits remain in the territory.
We will continue to explore other potential sources and do our due diligence on all commercial providers, but the options remain severely constrained.
Our advice continues to be that the trade with OCP / PhosBoucraa is legal, our guidance continues to be that local people in the territory are helped by the import and our appeal continues to be that the UN is supported in all it can do to resolve the complex political dispute that undeniably exists.
It remains our belief that the pasture-based system that has been the bedrock of economic growth and recovery from COVID-19 is a prize worth preserving and is founded on superphosphate.
Even though the supplier that provides rock from Morocco and Western Sahara (OCP) had excellent credentials on a range of supply criteria, Ravensdown committed to seeking additional sources even more actively.
Visits to Togo (SNPT) were undertaken and trial rock was organised.
The risk of supply chain disruption increased in a COVID-impacted world with the exporters being struck by the pandemic.
Full prolonged production with the non-PhosBoucraa blend provided specific data on elevated cadmium and fluoride levels. Supply risk and avoiding non-availability remain focus areas.