Morocco’s phosphate industry could capture 80%-90% of global demand by 2030, a huge boost to economic and investment growth, according to industry experts. But the issue of sovereignty in Western Sahara remains a political hurdle to full exploitation of the resource.
Morocco is already the world’s largest exporter of phosphates by a significant margin, typically accounting for about a quarter of global phosphate exports.
The 95% state-owned Office Chérifien des Phosphates (OCP) is the world’s largest exporter and has a monopoly in Morocco, controlling about 75% of world phosphate reserves.
The disputed Western Sahara region, however, holds an estimated twothirds of Morocco’s total reserves, around 50 billion metric tonnes (BMT), but accounts for less than 20% of Morocco’s total phosphate exports.
Full production in Western Sahara is held back by the political situation. The region is claimed by Morocco (which controls a broad swathe from coast inland) and the Polisario independence movement (which holds territory to the east mainly along the border with Mauritania).
This has prompted some international companies to avoid business related to Western Sahara, although the number of such boycotters has dropped in recent years and new companies are stepping in to fill the gap.
Moroccan phosphate production has recovered from a dip in 2009 that followed a crash in global prices per metric tonne from a peak of USD 430 in 2008 to a low of USD 40 in 2009. The current price is around USD 97.50 per metric tonne.