Working Paper

Global Availability of Phosphorus and Its Implications for Global Food Supply: An Economic Overview

Kiel Working Papers, 1897

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.


Markus Heckenmüller
Daiju Narita