China’s reserves of phosphorus, a key element for growing food, could be exhausted within the next 35 years if the country maintains its current production rate, a new study has found. However, China could delay exhausting its phosphorus reserves by more than 20 years through improving agronomic use efficiency of the mineral to the average level of 80 percent in developed countries without impairing current crop yields, said the study, published this week in the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…Full Article: Xinhua Feb 2016

Key Point

  • In 2012, China mined 12.5 million MTs of phosphorus or approximately 40% of the world’s total output. Roughly 70% of China’s phosphorus production was used to produce synthetic fertilizers, with the average use totaling 80 kg per hectare of land.

ChinaAg Comments

  • In December 2015, according to a Ministry of Agriculture representative, China will attempt to lower its fertilizer and pesticide utilization annual growth rate by less than 1% in the near future. Afterwards, China hopes to lower this rate to 0.2% to 0.3%, dropping it to 0% by 2020.
  • In August 2015, China’s Ministry of Finance, Central Administration of Customs and State Administration of Taxation announced it would resume imposing value-added taxes on fertilizer sales and imports (halted in 1994).
  • In July 2015, China announced fertilizer and pesticide usage would be “capped” by 2020. Its Ministry of Agriculture stated that less than 33% of fertilizers and pesticides are absorbed by crops.
  • In June 2015, China announced it would construct 80 “eco-friendly” vegetable plots in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei in accordance with the quality control standards of Beijing. These standards primarily focus on limiting the use of pesticides.
  • In December 2014, a Chief Researcher at the Botany Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences stated that China utilizes 400 kg of chemical fertilizers per hectare, well above the internationally recognized safe average of 225 kg per ha.
  • In late 2013, China announced it would halt agricultural production on ~3.33 million hectares of land owing to soil pollution (e.g. heavy metals, pesticides, and additives).
  • In 2012, China consumed 58.3 million metric tons of chemical fertilizers, of which 48% (~23.9 million MTs) was nitrogenous fertilizer, 34% (~19.8 million MTs) was compound fertilizer (e.g. NPK, etc.), 14% (~8.2 million MTs) was potash, and 11% (~6.1 million MTs) was phosphate. Henan, Hubei, and Sichuan were the largest consumers.
  • From 1980 to 2011, China’s chemical fertilizer usage has shifted to compound fertilizers at the expense of nitrogen fertilizers, despite the latter’s net consumption growth. The share of nitrogen fertilizer consumption fell from 74% to approximately 42% of total consumption. Meanwhile, the share of compound fertilizer consumption increased from under 5% to roughly 35%. Phosphate’s share fell from 21% to 15%, and the share of potash increased from under 5% to approximately 12% of total consumption.
  • In 1994, China exempted fertilizer sales and imports from VAT in order to maintain a stable fertilizer supply and prices.

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