Sales of phosphates from Western Sahara were down sharply in 2019 but make up only a small portion of Morocco’s total phosphate sales.
Rabat – Morocco’s sales of phosphates from Western Sahara declined by 46% in volume from 2018 to 2019 after North American company Nutrien stopped buying the mineral in 2018.
Morocco’s Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP) sold 19 shipments with 1.03 million tons of phosphate from the southern region in 2019, according to a report by Western Sahara Resource Watch, published Monday.
In 2019, the biggest buyer of phosphates from Morocco’s southern region became India, followed by New Zealand, China, and Brazil.
In 2018, sales of phosphates from the region reached 1.9 million tons. Canada bought approximately 50% of phosphate production in Western Sahara at the time.
Between 2012 and 2018, Morocco sold 1.8 million tons of phosphate from the region on average each year, notes the report. The sales figures for 2019 mark the lowest sales from the region in recent years.
OCP’s Phosboucraa mine in Western Sahara has a production capacity of 2.6 million tons, according to the state-owned company.
Phosphate deposits in the region, however, represent only 2% of the phosphates that OCP owns, with most of Morocco’s phosphate deposits located farther north.
Phosboucraa also makes up less than 5% of the OCP Group’s revenue.
Phosphates destined for India and China traveled via the Suez Canal, and all transports to New Zealand navigated around the southern tip of South America. No ships passed through the Panama Canal or around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope after the two countries detained phosphate cargo in 2017.
The report argues that Morocco should not sell any phosphates from the region until the UN finds a mutually acceptable solution to the conflict in Western Sahara.
Moroccan officials have affirmed their support for the UN’s political process to resolve the conflict. The kingdom submitted an autonomy initiative for the territory to the UN in 2007, a plan many countries have described as “credible” and “serious.”
In its latest resolution on the conflict, the Security Council emphasized “the need to achieve a realistic, practicable and enduring political solution to the question of Western Sahara based on compromise.”