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Global availability of phosphorus and its implications for global food supply: An economic overview

Markus Heckenmüller, Daiju Narita and Gernot Klepper

No 1897, Kiel Working Papers from Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW)

Abstract: Being of crucial importance for agricultural production and also having experienced significant price volatility, phosphate and its future availability have drawn growing at-tention from both academics and the public over the last years. This paper overviews the recent literature and data on the availability of phosphorus and discusses the eco-nomic aspects of phosphate scarcity by describing major price determinants of the global phosphate market. We show that past price fluctuations of phosphate rock and phosphate fertilisers are not a reflection of physical phosphate rock depletion but rather attributable to numerous other demand- and supply-side factors. Given the current re-serve estimates for phosphate rock, neither an exhaustion of global reserves nor a peak event is likely to occur within this century. However, these estimates are subject to a significant degree of uncertainty. Moreover, the global distribution of phosphate production and reserves is highly skewed and has the potential to pose a threat to food security in developing countries through factors such as the volatility of the phosphate rock price or price setting by suppliers with significant market power.

Keywords: phosphate scarcity; peak phosphorus; global food security; phosphate market; fertilizers (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2014
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