According to FAO, world demand for agricultural products will increase by 60 percent in 2030 compared to the present. This substantial increase in demand for agricultural products will only be attained through a massive expansion in cultivated acreage and/or a marked increase in crop yield per unit area. With the Asian region’s diminishing land resource base, however, increased production through expansion in cultivated area is highly improbable. Meanwhile, increased crop yield per unit area is also extremely difficult without super high-yielding varieties, sufficient water and fertilizers, and promising pest management strategies. Thus, many policy makers in Asia are now inclined to embrace the concept of ‘green evolution’ by pursuing the path to sustainability and environmental stewardship.
It is a known fact that fertilizers, particularly chemical fertilizers, have played a key role in the sustainable high yield production of staple crops in the past decades. In the last couple of years, the trend toward increased fertilizer use has even intensified to cope with the worldwide food crisis. In view of this, demand for fertilizer is predicted to rise much greater in Asia than in other parts of the world because the region has nearly half of the world’s population, and is also the center of global population explosion. In addition, a steep increase in the middle class population in the region has brought about changes in the people’s dietary pattern from grain to meat and dairy products, thus resulting in another great demand for food and feed production, and consequently a remarkable increase in the demand for chemical fertilizers.
In most Asian countries except China, external dependency for fertilizer supply is very high due to importation of most of the needed fertilizers or primary raw materials for fertilizer production. Phosphorus fertilizers are made from phosphorus rock (P-rock). However, P-rock production are very much concentrated to countries such as China, USA, Morocco and Russia, with China occupying one-fourth of the current production and one-third of the reserves of P-rock, respectively. Potassium (K), another essential nutrient for crop growth, is as scarce a resource as phosphorus. Potassium resources are reserved in very specific rock salt layers such as carnallite, and many experts are seriously concerned with its dry-up. Amid all these, any possible reduction in the application of fertilizers due to insufficient supply will inevitably bring about a sharp decrease in the yield and quality of agricultural produce, and also accelerate soil infertility.
In the next couple of decades, Asian population is projected to continuously expand and a substantial population shift from the so-called poverty strata to the middle class strata is expected to occur in association with the economic growth of Asia. Therefore, it is a matter of urgency to attain sustainable food production by ensuring sustained supply of fertilizers at affordable prices.
Currently, some Asian governments have attempted to re-focus their fertilizer policies and strategies on ‘efficient use’ rather than ‘increase in quantity.’ Also, with growing public awareness on sustainable and environment-friendly practices and food safety, the use of organic fertilizers has been increasing primarily to improve soil fertility and avoid environment and health problems associated with heavy use of chemical fertilizers. Fertilizer companies are also changing their strategies toward “high efficacy, ecologically-sound, and user-friendly” products. A variety of promising fertilizers based upon these new strategies are now being produced commercially, such as coated fertilizer (slow-releasing fertilizer) with high efficacy; coated fertilizer with different releasing rates, and organic and bio-fertilizer as ecologically sound products; and compound fertilizer and one-shot fertilizer as user-friendly products.
This seminar aims at providing farmers, policy makers, and fertilizer experts with the opportunity to deliberate on appropriate fertilizer policies for their respective countries, in particular, and for the Asian region in general. In view of the current situation and future perspectives on the demand and supply of fertilizers for sustainable food production, participants are expected to share and exchange relevant information and technology necessary to formulate appropriate fertilizer policies applicable to each country and to the region.