TOKYO, Sept 2 Phosphate is one of the three key nutrients that are used in fertilisers, and is a target of Japanese trading houses as they look to invest in upstream assets overseas to tap growth in the fertiliser market. [ID:nTOE67T06I]
The other two nutrients are nitrogen and potash.
Phosphate contains phosphorous, an important element for the human body to build and repair cell walls. It is found in the form of phosphate rock, which is processed into diammonium phosphate and other fertiliser derivatives.
While nearly 30 countries produce phosphate rock, China, the United States and Morocco are the largest producers, together accounting for two-thirds of world production. Morocco alone accounts for more than 30 percent of global exports.
The world's top producers -- many of them are government owned -- include Office Cherifien de Phosphate of Morocco, Mosaic Co (MOS.N) of the U.S., FosAgro of Russia and Yuntianhua Group of China YTHGR.UL
Annual global production is around 170 million tonnes, while estimated reserves stand at 15 billion tonnes. This means the reserves that can be developed using current technology can be depleted in 90 years, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey.
That compares with 230 year's worth of reserves for potash.
Here is a list of the world's top 5 phosphate producing countries and their reserves.
Top 5 Phosphate Producers
(in mln tonnes)
Country Production (2008) Reserves
1 China 50 4,100
2 US 30.9 1,200
West Sahara 28 5,700
4 Russia 11 200
5 Tunisia 7.8 100
Source: U.S. Geological Survey Mineral Commodity Summaries (Reporting by Yuko Inoue)