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Amy Brown headshot

How Mosaic Is Working to Help Feed a Growing and Hungry World

By Amy Brown

This article series is underwritten by The Mosaic Company and went through our normal editorial review process. 

The demand for food around the world shows no sign of slowing. The number of undernourished people in the world has been on the rise since 2014, reaching an estimated 821 million people in 2017. The UN estimates that the global population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050. To feed that many people, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), estimates that food production and agricultural productivity must increase by 70 percent by 2050.

The FAO estimates that just over a third of the potential land worldwide suitable for crop production is being used, which indicates some scope for further expansion of agricultural land. But a number of forces limit that expansion. Among these are environmental considerations; for example, bringing new land into production results in greenhouse gas emissions and disruption of ecosystems. Another consideration is shortage of suitable land, due to soils, climates, accessibility, the need to preserve forests, policies and other factors.

Pressure to raise productivity 

To help fill this growing need for nutritious food, fiber and fuel, farmers need to wring as much productivity as possible from every available acre and hectare. Around the world, yields continue to rise as farmers push their productivity forward – which is a positive trend. However, to continue at this pace, farmers know nutrients taken from the soil need to be replenished.

This is the challenge that Mosaic is helping to tackle. Mosaic’s core business—producing and distributing potash and phosphate fertilizers—helps farmers maintain healthy soils, which in turn contributes to continued productive harvests. Potash is a plant’s main source of potassium. It is one of the four primary nutrients required for plant growth along with nitrogen, phosphate and sulfur. It is used as a highly effective fertilizer routinely in the major food and crop growing regions especially China, Brazil and North America.

Mosaic’s mission—to help the world grow the food it needs—is “embedded in everything we do,” Corrine Ricard, senior vice president, commercial for Mosaic, told TriplePundit recently. “It remains as relevant today as it was when Mosaic was formed 14 years ago.”

Free trade and open access to global agricultural markets are critical to food security, says Ricard. “Farmers around the world depend on Mosaic, and other suppliers, to deliver the crop inputs when and where they are needed, and at an affordable price,” Ricard told us. “In our business, the impact of free trade restrictions and market access disruptions can be felt from mine to market. The simple fact is this: Fertilizer accounts for more than half of all crop yields. This means that constricted access to fertilizer goes well beyond corporate profitability – farmer livelihood, yields and food security are ultimately at risk. “

Mosaic works closely with industry and trade associations to ensure the facts are understood and that those in a position to influence trade discussions and decisions are kept well informed on the topic, Ricard says.

Rising global demand for fertilizer

Over the past three years, there has been growing concern from investors and market analysts over significant new potash and phosphates supply coming into the market and how this will balance with global demand, Ricard told 3p.

“The reality is that this market perception of new supply has yet to materialize. Global demand continues to increase each year and new production has been slow to come to market.”

According to Ricard, “Mosaic is well positioned to take advantage of the increase in demand, and for the potential expansion into new fertilizer markets in the years ahead. We are a highly efficient, responsible and cost competitive global supplier, and are confident we can continue serve customers well while growing our business for the long-term.”

Providing the world’s food sustainably

Responsible operations in crop nutrient production are a high priority for Mosaic. The quest for global food security is complex, impacted not only by rapid world population growth but also by the expanding middle class (the Brookings Institution reports that half the world is now middle class or wealthier) and the energy crisis. Access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy is central to food security. It’s clear that agricultural production must increase—but it must do so sustainably.

“We work with our customers to promote the principles of balanced crop nutrition and the 4Rs Nutrient Stewardship Framework: Applying the right source of fertilizer at the right rate, right time and right place,” she says.

Tapping into innovative products

Demand for crop nutrients remains strong, with the total global demand for fertilizers expected to reach some 189 million metric tons in 2017/2018. This will only rise as the global population grows.

“That is why Mosaic is committed to delivering innovative fertilizer products farmers need to help maximize yields and feed a growing population,” Ricard told us. “We focus on developing innovative premium products that help our customers and their growers achieve high yields. And we continue to operate responsibly, working to keep our people and our natural environment safe.”

One such product is MicroEssentials, developed using Fusion technology, which combines key nutrients (N, P, S, Zn) into a single nutritionally balanced granule. As the leading sulfur-enhanced phosphate product on the market, Mosaic reports that MicroEssentials delivers uniform nutrient distribution across the field, increases nutrient uptake into the plant and provides two forms of sulfur (elemental and sulfate sulfur) for season-long sulfur availability and is effective across a variety of cropping systems and soil conditions.

“MicroEssentials has been a success story for Mosaic, delivering value for everyone involved, from Mosaic to the retailer to the farmer,” Ricard says.

Serving the Brazilian market

Mosaic’s aim is to serve the world’s most promising agricultural areas. This includes Brazil, with one of the biggest agricultural markets in the world. Brazil’s farm economy has grown at remarkable rates over the past two decades, and that growth continues today. Fertilizer consumption has grown at a five percent compounded rate this decade, outpacing growth in every other major agriculture region, according to Mosaic.

Mosaic expects that growth to continue, Ricard says, as more of the Cerrado, the vast savanna ecoregion of Brazil, comes into production and as the country’s farmers, who are prospering today, seek to drive their yields higher.

To support its mission to serve Brazil’s agriculture industry, in 2018 Mosaic completed its acquisition of Vale Fertilizantes, a Brazilian fertilizer company, making Mosaic the leading fertilizer production and distribution company in Brazil. This follows the acquisition in 2014 of Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM)’s fertilizer distribution business in Brazil and Paraguay.

“Mosaic has invested heavily in Brazil,” says Ricard. “Our Vale Fertilizantes acquisition, together with our earlier ADM acquisition, is the cornerstone of our Brazil growth strategy. We are now the largest fertilizer producer in an extremely promising agricultural market.”

Image: Pixabay 

Amy Brown headshot

Based in Florida, Amy has covered sustainability for over 25 years, including for TriplePundit, Reuters Sustainable Business and Ethical Corporation Magazine. She also writes sustainability reports and thought leadership for companies. She is the ghostwriter for Sustainability Leadership: A Swedish Approach to Transforming Your Company, Industry and the World. Connect with Amy on LinkedIn and her Substack newsletter focused on gray divorce, caregiving and other cultural topics.

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