Egypt’s phosphate revolution a boon for Aswan industrial zone

Egypt is investing heavily in phosphates. (AFP)
Updated 06 May 2018
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Egypt’s phosphate revolution a boon for Aswan industrial zone

  • Phosphate rock producers are integrating in order to add value and meet the demands of Asian customers
  • The fertilizer sector is also growing domestically, with Egypt consuming 14.3 million tons of nitrogenous and phosphate fertilizers per year

LONDON: Cairo is upping its game in the global phosphates market by funding a new multimillion-dollar phosphate industrial zone in Aswan, as well as expanding Safaga Port on the Red Sea, a major hub for agribusiness exports to India. 

Phosphates and potash are part of a group of fertilizers that boost crop nutrition, and increase the yield from soil used to grow food. A report in Egypt Today said that since 2015, Egypt’s Industrial Development Authority had approved about 10 new projects in the field of phosphate fertilizers, with two already in production.

Phosphate rock producers are integrating in order to add value and meet the demands of Asian customers who find it more cost-efficient to buy intermediate or finished products since the price of phosphate rock has more than doubled since 2006. 

That makes it harder for Asian middlemen to make money when they sell the raw material up the supply chain. It also means more manufacturing opportunities for Egyptian phosphate producers and suppliers, the prime targets of the new phosphate industrial zone in Aswan.

The fertilizer sector is also growing domestically, with Egypt consuming 14.3 million tons of nitrogenous and phosphate fertilizers per year, according to the annual report of the Chamber of Chemical Industries (CCI), affiliated with the Federation of Egyptian Industries. Egypt could achieve self-sufficiency before too long, as well as bolster exports, the CCI said. The international phosphate landscape is changing as US production declines and American mines become depleted.

The US has recently been an importer of phosphate rock, which means a bigger role for non-US producers such as Egypt. Asian customers can buy cheaper from North Africa as it is closer, putting the US at a disadvantage, and this spurs investment in the region. Phosphate production was slowing in China, but growing strongly in places such as Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, according to a US Geological Survey report last year.  OCP Group of Morocco is the largest phosphate producer in the world. Morocco has the biggest phosphate rock reserve base in the world, accounting for about 75 percent of worldwide estimates, according to the report.


UK shoppers rein in spending as Brexit nears

Updated 22 min 35 sec ago
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UK shoppers rein in spending as Brexit nears

  • Retail sales volumes fell 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter after a 0.2 percent rise in the three months to November
  • Businesses are also cutting investment before Britain’s scheduled departure from the EU in late March

LONDON: British shoppers cut back on spending in the three months to December for the first time since last spring, adding to evidence of a consumer slowdown as Brexit approaches, data showed on Friday.
Retail sales volumes fell 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter after a 0.2 percent rise in the three months to November, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
Friday’s data chimed with other signs that consumer spending is cooling after a strong summer.
Businesses are also cutting investment before Britain’s scheduled departure from the European Union in late March, leaving the overall economy growing at a snail’s pace.
In December alone, retail sales fell 0.9 percent, recoiling after November’s Black Friday splurges, but were 3.0 percent higher than a year earlier. Both readings were below economists’ forecasts in a Reuters poll.
“A major concern for retailers will be that already cautious consumers further limit their spending in the near term at least due to the heightened uncertainties over Brexit,” economist Howard Archer from the EY ITEM Club consultancy said.
Sterling and British government bonds were little changed after the data.
The ONS said the value of sales fell for the first time in three years in the three months to December, underlining a squeeze on retailers’ profit margins as they battle for customers.
A survey last week from the British Retail Consortium showed retailers failed to increase Christmas sales for the first time since the depths of the global financial crisis a decade ago.
Supermarkets Sainsbury’s and Morrison missed Christmas sales forecasts though Tesco beat them. Clothing retailer Next and department store John Lewis reported a late surge in demand.
The ONS data showed a drop in sales of carpets and floor coverings, possibly reflecting a stalling housing market.
While disarray over Brexit has weighed on consumer confidence, there has been some comfort for households recently with the fastest underlying pay growth since 2008 and inflation falling to an almost two-year low of 2.1 percent.
Highlighting the easing of inflation pressures, the ONS’s measure of annual price increases in stores cooled to 0.6 percent in December from 1.3 percent in November, the smallest uptick in more than two years.