What is phosphate?

A source of essential nutrients

Phosphate and phosphorous are vital for life and growth. Discover how this rock is formed, what it's used for, and why it is so important in feeding a growing world.

Phosphate is the natural source of phosphorous, an element that provides a quarter of all the nutrients that plants need for their growth and development.

Phosphorous is used in many products, and is an essential ingredient in all fertilizers. Morocco has 70% of the world’s phosphate reserves, and OCP is responsible for mining, processing, manufacturing, exporting and maximizing its value. 


How is phosphate formed?

Phosphate is a sedimentary rock formed millions of years ago by the accumulation of organic matter on the ocean floor. Phosphate reserves are found in Africa, North America, Kazakhstan, the Middle East and Oceania but the world’s largest deposits are located in Morocco, which is also one of the global leaders in phosphate extraction.

What is phosphate used for? 


Phosphate rock is processed to produce phosphorous, which is one of the three main nutrients most commonly used in fertilizers (the other two are nitrogen and potassium). Phosphate can also be turned into phosphoric acid, which is used in everything from food and cosmetics to animal feed and electronics. At OCP we adapt our phosphate resources to deliver customized fertilizers for the specific needs of local soil, climate and crops. This leads to higher crop yields and helps feed the planet more sustainably.

The benefits of phosphorous on plant growth

Phosphate in sustainable agriculture

The core challenge facing the industry is how to meet growing demand for phosphate in a sustainable way. The answer lies in the 4Rs: right fertilizer, right rate, right time, right place. Advances in modern technology are opening up new ways to apply the 4Rs with more precision. This will help farmers understand what ‘right’ is for specific soils – and help them only ever use as much as they need. These advanced, customized fertilizers will help the world improve the fertility of arable land, with less impact on the environment.

Find out more about the 4Rs in the UN’s international code of conduct for the sustainable use and management of fertilizers.

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See how sustainable phosphate use will be crucial to feeding the world. Source: International Fertilizer Association

Managing phosphate resources


Phosphate is a finite resource – so it’s crucial that we extract and use it in responsible and sustainable ways. Estimates by the US Geological Survey (USGS) suggest that economically extractable phosphate reserves will last for many centuries at the current global production rate – with undersea resources in the Atlantic and Pacific pushing the estimate to be sufficient for 1,200 years.

Phosphate production in numbers

240m tons

annual global production
rate of phosphate

69bn tons

estimated economically extractable 
phosphate reserves worldwide

300bn tons

potentially exploitable resources
of phosphate rock

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