Focus on Africa
In front of an audience of over 1300 representatives of companies throughout the fertilizer value chain and other groups from over 75 countries, his excellency, the Moroccan Secretary of State to the Minister of Agriculture, Mr Hammou Ouhelli, opened this year’s Annual Conference of the International Fertilizer Association with an emphasis on the important role of nutrients for sustainable agricultural development. Referring explicitly to the AAA initiative (Adapting African Agriculture) as a concrete and innovative response to the challenges of Climate Change, he praised the industry by saying: “With your presence, here today, in Marrakech, you are contributing to the vision of a world without hunger.”
His remarks were followed by key note speeches from Sunny Verghese (CEO of Olam), Christian Witt (Senior Program Officer on Soil Health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Rebbie Harawa (Head of Soil and Fertilizer Systems at AGRA) and Dyborn Chibonga (Executive Director at the National Farmers’ Association of Malawi), who addressed the opportunities and challenges for ensuring greater access to fertilizers for African farmers, and the need to ensure more crop- and site specific, balanced and sustainable fertilizer application.
According to the FAO, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) alone is expected to experience a population growth of 180 % until 2050, which will require an estimated 170 % increase in food production. With an average fertilizer application rate of approximately only 12 kg / ha in 2016 (compared to 110 kg / ha in the rest of the world), there is a vast opportunity to grow the market. Indeed, IFADATA shows that SSA is the region with the fastest growing fertilizer demand: 17 – 18 kg /ha are expected to be reached in 2021, with regional demand expected to reach over 4.8 Mt by 2021 (including South Africa) compared to 3.3 Mt in 2015. Although this would bring the application rate to 17 kg / ha within the next two years, it is still far below the 50 kg / ha recommended by the Abuja Conference in 2006: Soil mining, large yield gaps and wide-spread hunger remain key problems for the continent.
Sustainable and Productive Agriculture
The fertilizer industry, highly committed to doing its part towards the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, focuses in particular on bringing the goals of food security and climate change together with market development objectives. “While infrastructure, availability and access are key prerequisites to drive fertilizer consumption in SSA,” says Charlotte Hebebrand, Director General of IFA, increased fertilizer application must entail “the efficient and effective use of nutrient inputs and be combined with good agronomic practices to assure that higher yields are not increasing environmental impact and greenhouse gas emissions.” (see also Policy Brief : “Fertilizers and low emission development in Sub-Saharan Africa”).
This was also the key message of Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw, Deputy Executive Director and Assistant Secretary General at UN Environment, who, speaking to IFA members in a video address, recognized the critical role of fertilizers for the future of our planet, but does not shy away from a strong call for action on environmental stewardship. Mr Thiaw acknowledged explicitly the already existing good cooperation between IFA and UN Environment and invited also IFA members to reach out directly to UNEP.
Rakesh Kapur to become IFA’s New Chairman
Another highlight of IFA’s conference was the election of its new Chairman: Rakesh Kapur, Joint Managing Director of the Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative (IFFCO), one of the largest fertilizer cooperatives in the world, currently celebrating its 50 year anniversary of continuous support to Indian farmers. M. Kapur is just finishing his term as Chairman of the Fertilizer Association India (FAI) and sits on a number of international boards. An ex- Indian Revenue Service Officer, he held various senior positions in Government, including as Director of the Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and, prior to joining IFFCO, Additional Assessor & Collector at Municipal Corporation of India.
Rakesh Kapur has already served as Chairman of IFA’s Production and International Trade Committee, and joined IFA’s Executive Board in 2015, when he was also elected as Vice Chairman and Chairman of IFA’s Finance Committee. “I am honoured and delighted to assume IFA’s Presidency and will continue to further advance and expand IFA’s strategic role in promoting product and nutrient stewardship initiatives around the world and delivering added value through its programs on statistics and market analysis. Under his leadership, my predecessor, Dr.Jawahery, has already accomplished major advances in driving the industry’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals. I pledge to continue this engagement in my new role, and ensure that IFA supports the industry to contribute to the important Agenda 2030 Goals. I am also delighted to oversee the development of a strategic, future oriented outlook for plant nutrition and our industry during my two year Chairmanship.”
Mr. Mostafa Terrab, CEO of OCP, Morocco, and long-standing Executive Board Member of IFA, had been nominated Vice-Chair.