January 21, 2011

Fertilizer Quality Improves in Brazil, 91% Now Meet Standards

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

Farmers in Brazil have long suspected that many of fertilizers sold in Brazil were of inferior quality. Their suspicions were confirmed in 2009 when the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture reported that only 83.7% of the fertilizers sampled actually contained the level of nutrients listed on the label and that many fertilizers contained fillers in place of actual plant nutrients.

In response to those findings, the Ministry announced a stepped up effort of fertilizer inspections in 2010 in an effort to weed out inferior products. The Ministry recently announced the results of their inspections and reported that 91.8% of the fertilizers sampled in 2010 contained the correct level of nutrients listed on the label.

They sampled 731,000 tons of fertilizers from 3,600 establishments and ended up confiscating 60,000 tons of fertilizers that did not meet the standards. They sampled 6,300 products and issued 1,350 violations. In response to the violations, they collected R$ 5 million in fines and they suspended the sale of five products for 60 days until the discrepancies were rectified.

Approximately 70% of the fertilizers used in Brazil are imported and the goal of the federal government is to be self sufficient in fertilizer production within ten years. Self sufficiency in fertilizer production would not only partially shield Brazilian farmers from volatile fertilizer prices; it would also improve the efficiency of Brazilian ports. Part of the congestion at Brazilian ports such as the Port of Paranagua and the Port of Santos, is due to the large amount of imported fertilizers that moves through the port. If the amount of imported fertilizers was reduced, more of the existing infrastructure at the ports could be devoted to moving agricultural products out of the country.

The state of Mato Grosso leads in fertilizer consumption followed by Sao Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul.