Ag zinc part of total demand increase
Schlag co-authored the IHS report, entitled the IHS Chemical Economics Handbook: Inorganic Zinc Chemicals. In it, he says the biggest demand growth sector for zinc chemicals during the period 2013 to 2018 will be for fertilizer production for animal feed and human food production. Agricultural applications of zinc chemicals in 2013 accounted for more than 290 TMT (Zn), with growth forecast at about 6 percent from 2013 to 2018.
Zinc deficiency is the one of the most common micronutrient deficiency problems globally, especially in cereal grain crops, which comprise the dominant food source for much of the population in developing countries. Nearly 50 percent of cultivated soils worldwide currently contain low amounts of plant-available zinc, and by 2018, said IHS, this could reach 65 percent. Plants growing in the potentially zinc-deficient soils have reduced productivity and contain very low concentrations of zinc in the edible parts.
WORLDWIDE ZINC POTENTIAL
In many studies, including projects in Brazil, China, India and Turkey, agricultural yields were increased in zinc-deficient regions by adding zinc to standard fertilizers and premixes. According to IHS, field trials proved that zinc fertilizer application increased crop yields from 8 percent annually to 20 percent annually, which increased zinc content in grains by 20 percent to 40 percent. This development also improved the soils’ nitrogen fertilizer uptake and increased economic returns for farmers.
Said Schlag, “With the amount of arable land per-person declining and population expanding, global crop-yields must increase to meet food production needs. As a result, we are seeing the most dramatic demand increase for zinc chemicals in fertilizer and agricultural production. There are additional options to address crop yields, including improvements in seed technology and improvements in crop protection. However, the greatest potential for improvement is fertilizers and micronutrients, and in particular, zinc, which is why our forecast for demand growth is so bullish on the agricultural industry.”
Zinc deficiency has been identified as a means to address malnutrition in children, which the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF cite as one of the world’s major health concerns. According to WHO literature, “severe acute malnutrition affects an estimated 19 million children under the age of five worldwide and accounts for approximately 400,000 child deaths each year.” The issue is of such significance to global development, that according to UNICEF, “the Copenhagen Consensus, a group of leading economists, has consistently confirmed that “’taking action on under-nutrition is the single-most important, cost-effective means of advancing human well-being.’”