Most of the phosphate output is used for fertilizer. Phosphorus plays a major energizer role of plant production, it is crucial to photosynthesis and reproduction and an aid to other yield-developing processes. Different crops require different quantities of phosphate fertilizer, for example a maize crop yielding 6–9 tonnes of grain per hectare requires some 31–50 kg of phosphate fertilizer to be applied, soybeans requires about 20–25 kg per hectare. Most natural and agricultural soils are phosphorus deficient.
Other important phosphate activities are the manufacture of feed products and industrial applications like detergents and cleaners, food and beverages, metal finishing, water treatment and toothpaste.
Phosphate fertilizer consumption is driven by the increasing needs of agricultural growth, which has to feed a global population which has increased by 130% from 1960 to 2011, the decreasing amount of available land, the growing need to produce animal feed, and the growing share of biofuels in the crops output. World consumption of P2O5 contained in fertilizers was projected to grow at a rate of 2-3% per year during the next 5 years, with the largest increases expected in Asia and South America.
China is the largest consumer and producer of phosphate fertilizers, it is the main factor shaping the phosphate market. India is the second global consumer. The Chinese are also the largest consumer of feed phosphates, accounting for 31 percent of global consumption. The USA and Brazil consume 9 percent and 12 percent of global feed phosphate respectively.
The global consumption of phosphate fertilizers was estimated to have been in 2012 of some 40.7 million tonnes P2O5, slightly less than the 41.3 millions consumed in 2011. This was mainly a result of lesser demand of the Asian markets, as consequence of different factors, among them the negative effect on the Indian farmer economics of the review of the subsidy system.
In relation to the industrial phosphates, China is the world’s largest producer, accounting for more than half of the global capacity.
Estimated 2012 Phosphate Rock Capacity
(Total: about 200 million tonnes rock)
Global phosphate fertilizer (MAP/DAP/TSP) sales volume in 2011 totalled 25.3 million tonnes product (up 1.0% year-on-year). China remained the world’s largest exporter of DAP in 2012 and accounted for a quarter of the global market.