With greatly increased demand for basic food agricultural products to sustain the growing population, particularly in countries where population density is high and continues to rise at a rapid pace, the demand for fertilizers has also increased significantly. Such demand is likely to continue to rise considerably in the next few years, particularly in a number of developing countries where agricultural production will have to be substantially increased to meet domestic demand and to provide export opportunities for particular agricultural products. The availability of chemical fertilizers at reasonable prices, therefore, constitutes an essential feature of agricultural development in most countries and particularly in several developing countries which continue to be basically agricultural economies.
World fertilizer consumption has risen above 100 million metric tons (mmts) of nutrients a year. A quarter of this is in developing countries. Though these countries have increased their fertilizer consumption by more than 50% since 1973-74, the amount is still insufficient to produce adequate food. Despite the energy crisis, there should be no disagreement about the urgency of sustaining rapid growth in fertilizer consumption in the developing world. Population pressure on land, growing food deficits, depleted soil fertility and the complementarity between proven yield-increasing technologies and high levels of fertilizer application all point up its importance.
The real question concerning the developing world is not whether but how to maintain rapid growth in fertilizer consumption.