Quality Assurance for the Fertilizer Industry

Cotecna is a leading provider of inspection & testing services for the fertilizer industry. Discover our essential role along the supply chain.

A fertilizer is a material of natural or synthetic origin applied to soil or the growth of plant tissues to supply one or more plant nutrients essential to develop a plant and its yield. This yield gap can be explained by different reasons, including farmers’ limited access to inputs (e.g., quality of seeds, adequate water supply, right kind of minerals).

Most soils have an abundance of the mineral elements required for growth. However, occasionally some details are not readily available. Soil needs the application of fertilizers to fulfill the need for those missing soil minerals. In their absence, crop yield will sooner or later approach the minimum level. It will reduce both the return on a farmers' investment and the resulting food supply.

The Fertilizer Market in 2020 & Its Drivers

According to the Business Research Company, the global chemical fertilizers market grew from 127.5 billion USD in 2020 to 138 billion USD in 2021, with a compound annual growth rate of 8.2%. Even more - the market is expected to increase to 150 billion USD in 2025. As for the regional structure of the global fertilizers market, due to China and India's tremendous performance, the Asia Pacific is the most significant player globally, with more than 40% of the market in 2020. North America took second place, with about 1\4 of the global market.

Despite uncertainties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, operational performance results for the main fertilizer raw materials have demonstrated moderate growth. Based on preliminary estimates, the 2020 global output trend would show the following:

  • ammonia production up by 1%
  • phosphate rock production up by 1%
  • primary potash output up by 1%

Around 200 million metric tons of nutrients are in demand annually for different types of soil. These fertilizers are produced for local consumption and are also sold to international clients for global use.

Importance of Quality Control for Fertilizers

Low-quality fertilizers can be costly and damaging, both for the industry and the environment.

Cotecna, as a global TIC (Testing, Inspection, and Certification) company and member of the International Fertilizer Association, has a significant role in helping international producers, traders, and buyers make informed and profitable transactions while minimizing associated risks.

Cotecna’s teams are present in all significant areas of fertilizer production & trade, offering bespoke services that cover mineral, organic & organometal fertilizers in both bulk and bagged form, dry and liquid, including all types of nitrogen, phosphate, potash, and compound fertilizers, as well as sulfur and other specialty products.

Our surveyors at ports, plants, and mines work on behalf of the client to get first-hand information on the quality and quantity of its fertilizer product, helping producers deliver fertilizers to final users according to contractual and regulatory specifications. Our experts have an in-depth knowledge of soil and local requirements.

We offer a wide range of solutions that address quality and quantity control challenges along the supply chain.

At every stage, Cotecna's specialists can perform sampling. According to the required national and international standards, samples are analyzed in accredited & certified laboratories. Cotecna plays an essential role in verifying the composition and the physical, chemical, and microbiological quality of fertilizers. Cotecna's scope at this level is pervasive. It provides the client with a comprehensive service ranging from raw material control through derived blends, final product evaluation, final product certification for registration, and final quality certification for export.

At mines, pre-shipment inspections of rock phosphate can also be carried out. Cotecna supervises the weighing and tallying of the cargo, and its loading into wagons or containers, confirming beforehand the load's presence and the cleanliness and suitability of the loading equipment. At this step, Cotecna can also check the packaging and marking, and sealing of railway cars.

Cotecna provides numerous services at loading ports, such as holds inspections, loading supervision, weight determination surveys using shore scales and draft surveys, and marine surveys. The resulting quantity and quality determinations are then certified and used for the sale contract's financial settlement covering the cargo. Hose and specific Ultrasonic Leak Detection (ULD) tests can also be performed to avoid damages to, particularly water-sensitive fertilizer products during the voyage. Constant monitoring of the loading process, including field granulometry and temperature monitoring, is essential, and Cotecna informs its clients immediately in case of any quality deviation.

At discharge ports, Cotecna's intervention typically includes weight determination, quantity determination by tally count, as well as sampling and analysis. The cargo is visually inspected, especially to detect water and oil damages, discoloration, and other contamination types.

Cotecna can also offer stock monitoring services to improve borrowers' access to financing when it comes to storage. Thus, we mitigate transaction risks for lenders and comply with the Basel framework requirements for traders.

Cotecna has extensive experience in the market. For instance, we are part of the official inspection agencies nominated by the Government of India for global urea procurement. We also work for essential clients from the private sector, such as Canpotex, one of the biggest suppliers of potash overseas, as their official inspection agency for shipment at load port in Canada or VLI in Brazil, to name a few.

To stay at the forefront, Cotecna is continuously investing in modern facilities and cutting-edge equipment. In 2021, we have acquired Fitosoil Laboratorios, S.L, (located in Murcia in Spain). Fitosoil holds a leading position in the fertilizer sector. They have developed advanced analytical techniques at the international level and enjoy one of the immense accreditation scopes in Europe. Following the organic food trend, Fitosoil is also a pioneer in developing testing methods to detect and quantify new natural molecules, which could shape the future fertilizer, pest, and disease control industries.

About Cotecna

Cotecna provides testing, inspection, and certification services to facilitate trade and make supply chains more efficient for its clients. Founded in Switzerland in 1974, this family-owned business has grown to become a world-class international player with over 5000 employees in more than 150 offices and labs across approximately 50 countries. Its trusted network of professionals and certified & accredited laboratories provide expertise across some key sectors: agriculture & food, minerals, metals & fertilizers, government & trade, and general cargo.

Keywords: fertilizer, ports, cargo, inspection, mineral, soil, testing, analyses, laboratory, food, Urea, potash, rock phosphate, DAP, organic