Zinc will play a larger role in the fertilizer market as demand grows for its use as a micronutrient in growing agricultural crops, says IHS Chemical in a new market research report released Monday.
Zinc is used to boost crop yields and is used in automotive tire production, paints, coatings, glass and construction materials in a variety of forms like zinc oxide, zinc sulfate and zinc chloride.
"Zinc is an essential element for animal and plant life, and zinc deficiency, particularly in children, has become such a threat to public health that many countries in zinc-deficient regions are implementing programs to increase the use of zinc in fertilizers," said Stefan Schlag, director of specialty chemicals at IHS Chemical and co-author of the report. "We see this trend contributing to healthy demand growth for zinc chemicals during the next few years."
Current total demand for zinc-derived chemicals is about 1.5 million metric tons (expressed as Zn equivalents), according to Schlag. However, by 2018 – the end of the study period – IHS expects demand for zinc chemicals to exceed 1.8 MMT Zn.
"About 400 thousand metric tons of that demand will be tied to agricultural demand, most of it in the form of zinc sulfate," he says.
Demand is already growing in some regions. In 2012 and 2013, for example, China included zinc fertilizer in the national fertilizer recommendations for major crop production, Schlag said. Overall, the move is expected to increase zinc fertilizer production and use in China by an additional 50,000 metric tons to 100,000 metric tons annually, the IHS report said.
According to IHS, 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% of cultivated soils worldwide currently contain low amounts of plant-available zinc, and by 2018, this could reach 65%, IHS says.
Plants growing in the potentially zinc-deficient soils have reduced productivity and contain very low concentrations of zinc in the edible parts.
In 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 determined that zinc fertilizer application increased crop yields from 8% annually to 20% annually, while improving the soils' nitrogen uptake.
Schlag says he expects an increase in other uses for zinc as production of goods that use zinc products, like tires, increases.
"Global zinc chemical production will soon be reaching very high utilization rates, so new capacity is needed," he says. IHS expects new capacity for zinc chemicals to come online during the next five years, most likely in Asia and in China. This will satisfy the increasing demand for tire production and rubber goods, in general, he said.
Source: IHS Chemical