As the global population is slated to reach 9 billion by 2050, food production will need to increase by 70 percent, according to Mosaic’s Ron Yasurek, the general manager of the fertilizer producer’s Plant City phosphate facility.
Yet, only a small portion of those large-scale food needs —about 10 percent — can be solved from developing additional farmland.
“We’ve got to find a way to be more efficient and effective with the land that is currently in crop production,” Yasurek said.
“The land is just not there,” said Yasurek, the featured speaker at The Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce July 6 breakfast meeting.
The general manager explained Mosaic’s history and what the company does.
Mosaic is the world’s leading integrated producer and marketer of concentrated phosphate and potash, he said, noting the Minnesota-based company was formed in 2004 by a merger of IMC Global with the crop nutrition division of Cargill.
Florida’s phosphate deposits — first discovered by an U.S. Army Corps of Engineers captain in 1881 — are the basis of an $85 billion industry that supplies three-fourths of the phosphate used in the United States.
Mosaic currently mines phosphate rock from 200,000 acres in central Florida, while potash is mined from four mines in North America, primarily in Saskatchewan.
Its products are processed into crop nutrients, and then shipped via rail, barge and ocean-going vessel to customers in major agricultural centers throughout the world.
The Plant City facility is involved in the production of phosphate fertilizers, combined heat electrical power and fluoridation ingredients. Finished products include Diammonium Phosphate (DAP) and Monoammonium Phosphate (MAP).
Globally, one of Mosaic’s ongoing initiatives is smarter agronomy — the science and technology of producing and using plants for food, fuel, fiber, and land reclamation—to meet the world’s rapidly growing needs.
The company has reclaimed 48,000 acres of mined land, of which 34,000 acres has been released completely, Yasurek said.
Today, Mosaic generates about $7 billion in annual sales.
And, much of its product flows through the Port of Tampa.
Mosaic represents about 71 percent of the Port’s business, while nearly 50 percent of the jobs associated with the Port are related to the phosphate business, Yasurek said.
Mosaic, meanwhile, employs nearly 9,000 people in six countries, including 3,700 in Florida.
Over 1,200 people are employed by Mosaic in Hillsborough County alone — and 400 at the Plant City facility — not including hundreds of support contractors for ongoing capital projects.
Statewide, Mosaic divvies up about $44 million in payroll annually.
Those figures soon could see an increase in the next three decades.
Yasurek said additional growth opportunities for distribution and production are likely to occur in either in Florida or internationally, particularly Brazil.
In December, Mosaic agreed to buy Vale Fertilizantes from Brazilian mining company Vale for $2.5 billion. The deal lands Mosaic 4.8 million metric tons of phosphate crop nutrient and 500,000 metric tons of potash capacity annually. Most of the assets are in Brazil.
“As food production increases, that’s one of the countries around the world that has opportunity, both from a land, and from an increasing yield perspective,” Yasurek explained.
Meanwhile, Mosaic is monitoring potential or active threats to the fertilizer industry, such as the organic product market and overseas phosphate production.
Organic food sales in the U.S. increased 8.4 percent in 2016, reaching $43 billion annually, according to the Organic Trade Association.
Organic food now accounts for 5.3 percent of all food sales in the U.S.
Still, it remains only a “minor threat,” Yasurek said.
“When you talk about the amount of food that needs to be grown, it can’t happen (organically),” Yasurek said, noting the farming yield of crops would be about 40 percent less, if not for fertilizers.
“I hope that folks can make some more crops from organic needs, but the reality is you’re not going to get away from using macroeconomic inputs in order to boost the production,” he said.
A greater threat, Yasurek said, is the expansion of phosphate and potash production in countries such as Morocco, China and Russia.
“…From an exchange rate perspective, those guys are killing us,” he said. “If China and Russia can produce and short-sale product into the U.S., then we’ve got a threat to our jobs here. Manufacturing in the U.S. — that is under a constant threat.”
Published July 12, 2017