The increasing world population can only be fed by increasing food production, which cannot happen unless more fertiliser is produced. Plants need water, oxygen, carbon and numerous mineral elements. One of the major elements is phosphorus which is responsible for all processes in plant life in which energy is stored and utilised. The dominant application of phosphorus to grow food is in fertilisers
Phosphorus occurs in the earth's crust with an average concentration of 1180 ppm. Fortunately there are concentrated deposits with a concentration varying from 1 to 17% phosphorus. These deposits are mined, beneficiated and supply the fertiliser industry with phosphate rock as the primary raw material to produce soluble phosphatic fertilisers. It should be noted that there are no substitutes for phosphorus in agriculture and it is a finite resource
Phosphate rock has been reported to occur in 116 countries of which only 30 countries have significant reserves both in quantity and grade. According to IFA statistics, 10 countries account for 95 % of world traded phosphate rock.
World phosphate rock production capacity is currently approximately 259 million tonnes with approximately 75-80% utilisation. Most of the 225 million tonne phosphate rock produced in 2015 was used domestically by the producing countries, only 30 million tonne was exported or 13% of production
Although there is an abundant supply of phosphate rock in the world there is a decreasing amount of high quality rock available.
Phosphate Rock is an imprecise term used to describe a variety of rock types containing naturally-occurring phosphate minerals of widely differing geological origin. There are three basic categories of phosphate deposit: igneous, sedimentary and guano and related deposits. The most important phosphate ores are those of sedimentary origin which represent more than 80% of known reserves. Therefore phosphate rocks from different sources vary widely in chemical composition and physical properties.
Whilst commercial phosphate rocks are usually distinguished primarily by grade (i.e. P2O5 or BPL), the processing properties of these rocks are only rarely connected directly with the grade itself, since they are primarily a function of the quantity and type of impurities present.