The CEO of one of the world’s leading fertilizer exporters has become the first African to be elected chairman of the global body representing the fertilizer industry. Mostafa Terrab, of the Morocco-based OCP Group, succeeds Rakesh Kapur as chair of the International Fertilizer Association (IFA).
As announced at the IFA 2019 annual conference held in Montreal, one of Terrab’s priorities for his chairmanship will be to focus on innovation and addressing the still unacceptably low levels of fertilizer use in Africa.
Soil fertility across much of Africa is low. Over 40% of African soils face nutrient depletion, partly because of a failure to apply sufficient levels of fertilizers. The average use of fertilizers in most African countries is still around 16kg per hectare, which is far below the continent-wide recommendation of about 100kg per hectare.
As a result, average crop yields are only a fraction of those enjoyed by other regions, and risk not keeping up with the continent’s growing need for food. To meet demand, sub-Saharan Africa must triple the amount of cereals it produced in 2007 by 2050. This is in the face of many challenges in the coming decades, such as water scarcity and climate change.
“By scaling up improved soil analysis and nutrient best management practices, farmers in Africa can increase the efficiency and productivity of their farms and avoid the additional conversion of an estimated 80 million hectares of additional land to desert,” said Terrab.
He also pledged to increase efforts to attract more youth and women into roles across the agriculture. Despite most of Africa’s population being under the age of 24, the average age of farmers is 60 years old.
Terrab’s chairmanship follows an extensive strategic assessment of the industry, investigating how it can further contribute to the world’s broader sustainable development goals.
“The global fertilizer industry remains committed to environmental stewardship and stakeholder relationship building,” said Charlotte Hebebrand, Director General of IFA. “We are excited to continue on this important path under Terrab’s chairmanship.”
“A shift in the fertilizer industry is already under way” added Terrab: “and IFA is poised to step up its scientific engagement, sustainable plant nutrition and production programmes.”
Terrab holds a Ph.D in Operations Research from MIT, and previously worked in the Moroccan government and at the World Bank before joining OCP Group in 2006.