Instability in the Middle East and North Africa could disrupt supplies of phosphate rock and threaten global food security, say two Australian academics.
Phosphorus is an important component of fertiliser.
A high proportion of phosphate rock reserves are in the Middle East and Africa.
Professor Stuart White and Dr Dana Cordell from the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney, are among researchers investigating a possible peak in phosphate rock production before the end of the century.
Speaking in the United States at the Sustainable Phosphorus Summit at Arizona State University, they said regional instability was an extra component in the potential gap between supply and demand in global phosphorus resources.
“Morocco alone controls the vast majority of the world’s remaining high-quality phosphate rock,” Prof White said in a statement.
“Even a temporary disruption to the supply of phosphate on the world market can have serious ramifications for nations’ food security.
Prof White said that even before the peak in phosphorus production, there is a prospect of significant rises in prices and a consequent impact upon farmers and global crop yields.
Dr Cordell said no government had a plan for securing sufficient access to phosphorus for producing food in the long term.
Dr Cordell said investment was needed in renewable phosphorus fertilisers – recovering and re-using phosphorus from excreta, manure and food waste – and increasing the efficiency of phosphorus use throughout the process of mining, fertiliser and food processing.