OCP (Office Chérifien des Phosphates) is a Moroccan state-owned phosphate rock miner, phosphoric acid manufacturer and fertilizer producer. Founded in 1920, the company has grown to become among the world’s largest “supermajor” producers of phosphate and phosphate-based products and it is one of the largest phosphate, fertilizer, Chemicals and Mineral industrial companies in the world by revenue.
OCP has access to more than 70% of the world’s phosphate rock reserves. Initially a mining company, OCP diversified in 1965 to become a phosphate processor, making it the world’s largest and leading fertilizer manufacturers.
In Ethiopia, the OCP office was incorporated in September 2015 to support the development of Ethiopian Agriculture. Quite recently, due to the global rise of fertilizer prices , the firm has donated a total of 60,000MT to Ethiopia under OCP Group’s fertilizer relief program The relief program will be accompanied with OCP flagship programs that aim to develop the capacity of farmers and skills trainings to increase yield.
Capital reached out to Youssef Lahmiti, Managing Director of OCP Ethiopia and Vice President of OCP Africa, East Africa, for insights on the progress of OCP in Ethiopia and the inspiration behind the fertilizer donations, amongst other issues. Excerpts;
Capital: Tell us how the fertilizer donation came about?
Youssef Lahmiti: Along with supplying fertilizers to satisfy local demand OCP has been engaged in CSR in Ethiopia. The donation made under the fertilizer relief program initiated by OCP Group and is a donation from OCP to African countries in these times of fertilizer prices upsurge.
We decided on this donation based on the current context of fertilizers as the price has been increasing first due to COVID and now the War of Russia and Ukraine which is impacting the availability of the products as well as the prices too.
As we all know, Russia is a big exporter of fertilizer as well as Ukraine; since they are big producers of natural gas.
OCP is a state company in Morocco, a country that is well known as having the largest reserve of phosphate in the world, which amounts to 75% of the world’s phosphate reserve.
This is the first phase of our donations of the year, and we will be organizing more soon. Due to the urgency of the matter, we are providing donations to several African countries
This fertilizer relief program is of a total volume of 550,000 tons with 180,000 tons of fertilizer as a donation and 370,000 tons sold at discounted prices. Ethiopia has received 60,000 tons of the donations for free, which represents one third of the total amount donated under the relief program.
Capital: For what propose can this fertilizer be used?
Youssef Lahmiti: From the 60,000 tons of fertilizer, 50,000 metric tons of the donations is NPSB and will go towards supporting Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s wheat initiatives in sustaining self sufficiency of wheat in the coming years.
From our end, we are impressed and command Ethiopia’s by these initiative, and we are happy to be able to support by providing these fertilizers. In the coming months we have plans to provide training to farmers on fertilizer usage and provide them with the technical tools to increase their yields.
The remaining 10,000 tons is TSP which will be supplied for two blending factories as a base of some blended materials. We are currently working on a programme of customization in two blending factories to produce fertilizers locally as such formulated blends will have a positive impact on the yield.
To this end the ongoing demonstrations and popularization of our blended fertilizers adapted to acid soils in Ethiopia should support farmers in Ethiopia.
Capital: What made Ethiopia to stand out and receive higher portions of the donation?
Youssef Lahmiti: Ethiopia consumes on average over 1 million tons of fertilizer per year. 60000 tons is our modest contribution to Ethiopia.
What led us to determine the donation here is the consumption and volume of demand in Ethiopia that is a large fertilizer consuming country.
Moreover, OCP is a key strategic partner to Ethiopia not only as a supplier of agricultural inputs but also due to our presence since 2016 that have enabled us to be well accustomed to the demand., Thus we pushed for a donation that takes into consideration the country’s general consumption.
The donation is contingent on the country’s use of fertilizers. Even though there is no set formula in which the OCP group allocates these donations, it’s important to understand that among the many criteria, we looked at the need of the country within our capacity.
Capital: OCP has been in Ethiopia since 2016 having a project in Dire Dawa. So on what stage is the project now?
Youssef Lahmiti: The project in Dire Dawa is still on the table and OCP is committed to realize the project.
This project is a partnership between the two, Ethiopia and Morocco governments, and it is based on the complementarities of naturalization between both parties. To produce fertilizers, we need some raw materials and with Ethiopia’s gas and Morocco’s phosphates, this project will be revolutionary.
The government of Ethiopia is pushing for this project and for the gas production part the Poly
GCL has failed to start the construction, thus we had faced some delays on this project.
I think there are issues to be solved and we are working closely with the government on the follow up, because we need the gas for our production. To this regard, we are also very appreciative of the Ministry of Mines for putting pressure on Poly GCL to solve this problem as soon as possible.
As they work to solve the issue, I would like to also state that we remain committed to this project because it’s a good opportunity for OCP to have a presence in this country for the long haul and we are also committed to reinforcing the idea of South-South cooperation in addition to helping countries that we partner up with in developing their capacity.
This project having been launched in 2016 in the presence of our King, and for us since we are a state company, we often receive questions on the project status. As OCP we will continue to work in partnership with the government to start construction as soon as possible.
Capital: The Minister of Agriculture on his speech has been indicating that the government expects you to complete the factory with in one or less than two years. How do you see this?
Youssef Lahmiti: It means that there is a strong commitment from the government. The commitments of the government with OCP for this project are very high. When he says one year it is not meaning this will be completed in one year, it cannot be built in one year. Building fertilizer companies is a time consuming and big project .
It is my believe that the government is committed to building the factory as fast as possible since there is an urgency to have a Pan African fertilizer manufacturing company. OCP happens to have the capacity, knowledge, and the natural resources support in that.
As I explained earlier, we have faced some delays because of Poly GCL and it is our understanding that the government is working tirelessly to find a solution to this. If the government plans to speed up the project within a year or two, there should be concerted efforts to find better ways in doing so, to which we are open to provide our assistance in full capacity. We are aware of how time sensitive this issue is and it is our hope that construction will begin sooner rather than later.
Capital: There are some people who argue that fertilizers have a negative impact on the farm land. What’s your take on these assumptions?
Youssef Lahmiti: There are 7 billion people in the world that we need to feed and fertilizers play a pivotal role in food security.
Scientifically, this assumption is not correct. To make more produce, the plant needs to be fed and fertilizers go a long way in ensuring that the right nutrients are available.
The supply of fertilizer is a direct answer for the global context of food insecurity to which African countries were on top of the list for food security hotspots. So when we speak about organic versus non organic, it’s important to understand the context in which you want to discuss it. Food security is a critical issue and as OCP we want to play a role in bringing sustainability with regards to food security through the provision of the necessary agricultural inputs for African countries and
African farmers so as to satisfy local demand and offer food security.