An agricultural worker drives a tractor spreading fertilizer in a soybean field, near Brasilia
An agricultural worker drives a tractor spreading fertilizer in a soybean field, near Brasilia, Brazil February 15, 2022.

Global fertilizer companies operating in Brazil can increase local output of important crop nutrients if the government continues to improve the regulatory framework for the sector, industry representatives said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a day-long industry event, major players said Brazil is too important a food producer to depend on fertilizer imports.

Marcelo Altieri, chief executive of the local unit of Norway's Yara International, said during a morning panel discussion that Brazil's reliance on imports represents a threat to global food security, as the country is one of the world's largest food suppliers.

On the sidelines of the event, however, Altieri declined to comment on whether Yara would be interested in bidding for a nitrogen-based fertilizer project up for sale by Brazil's oil major Petroleo Brasileiro.

Petrobras, as it is known, also is seeking bidders for potash mining rights in the Amazon.

Brazil imports about 85% of the fertilizer it requires, according trade group Anda. In March, after the start of the war in Ukraine, the government announced a plan to boost local output.

Mosaic Co, the world's fourth-largest fertilizer producer, said the outlook for Brazilian production began to improve after Brazil passed new rules for the gas market.

The government also improved tax legislation that tended to favor imports, a Mosaic executive said.

"To depend on imports not only penalizes the country, but also the world," Arthur Liacre, an executive for Brazil's Mosaic Fertilizantes, said during an afternoon panel discussion.

Liacre recalled that 25 years ago, local production of the NPK fertilizer mixture was sufficient to cater to 55% of Brazil's needs. Today it is a little below 10%, he noted.

Ibram, a mining trade lobby, said at the event that it backs mining on Brazil's indigenous territory, which the Constitution allows, as a way to cut fertilizer import dependence.

Toronto-based Brazil Potash Corp is planning to open a potash mine in the Amazon..

In Southern Brazil, Australia's Aguia Resources Ltd hopes to build the region's first phosphate mine by late 2023.