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All the P in China…

May 16, 2010

(Shiho Fukada for The New York Times) A truck drives to a yellow phosphorus factory in Yunnan Province, China. Steep export taxes on the chemical material has put pressure on chemical companies to shift production to China.

Today’s (16 May) New York Times contains an article describing emerging issues related to foreign trade, commodity use, and industrial development in China as China seeks to continue develop it’s economy.  LINK Intriguingly, the topic of phosphorus comes up, including China’s 2008 imposition of heavy tariffs on P export that were part of 2008’s global price excursions in P fertilizer costs.  Likely China was trying to keep P raw materials “in country” for processing to fertilizer and to value-added industrial P compounds (such as “yellow phosphorus”).  All in all, this reinforces the obvious importance of China in setting the stage of world markets for key commodities like phosphorus.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Rob Mikkelsen permalink
    May 18, 2010 11:50 pm

    China is indeed a major player in the plant nutrient industry. They have a large impact on global fertilizer prices when they make annual decisions on what they will import (and at what price).

    Interesting that the picture caption describes a “yellow phosphorus” factory.

    White (and yellow) phosphorus is commonly used in ammunition such as artillery shells and mortars. They burn and smoke upon firing. Some yellow P can be converted to fertilizer P, but this is not common.

    In many countries, there is more concern about building up the soil nutrient reserves to adequate concentrations for unrestricted plant growth. In North America, we have many soils that have been fertilized to that point already. When that adequate concentration has been reached, maintanence applications to match crop removal rates may be sufficient… as guided by soil and plant tissue testing.

    China has a historical tradition of recycling organic wastes back onto the farm, but as society becomes more urbanized, this becomes a challenge in many ways.

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