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phosphoric acid and 500,000 are sold to the domestic market. To put that amount of material in context, to send it by road would mean a 30- tonne truck being dispatched every six minutes, around the clock, every day of the year. Although South Africa's population is growing in size and affluence, thereby creating more demand for agrochemicals, Foskor can comfortably satisfy the country's fertilizer manufacturers with the phosphates they need. It has therefore remained the country's only internal supplier; however, this monopoly doesn't mean it can set whatever price it wants. Foskor negotiates annual contracts with manufacturers that are tightly linked to international prices which, on the face of it, are currently in a hole. " Four months ago," says Horn, " acid prices dropped around 75 per cent. But you need to be realistic. They had gone through the roof in the previous year and have now settled back to where they were 18 months ago. The drop affects the bottom line performance but demand for our product remains constant." What is of greater concern to Foskor is how to capitalise better on the higher grade acid it can make. Within the company, the drive is to change its role from a commodity supplier to a value added processor; as such, Foskor has a number of expansion programmes on the go. " The above- ground, previously stockpiled source of material we're processing at the moment will be depleted by the end of the year," explains Horn. " The company has decided to invest R550 million ( US$ 69 million) opening a new mine which has higher grade ore. Therefore, without upgrading anything on the processing side, it will give us more concentrate from next year." However, for some time Foskor has been hampered in getting the most out of its plant. A decade ago it invested heavily in what was thought to be state- of- the- art milling technology that has never lived up to expectations. " It means we have a flotation plant capable of 650 tonnes per hour being fed by a dry milling plant only delivering 400 tonnes per hour," says Horn. As such, the board decided to go back to conventional wet milling and is investing another R650 million on a supplementary milling line which will eventually come on stream in 2011. When expansion plans one and two fall into place, it will give Foskor circa 300,000 tonnes of product it can then sell on the open export market, which should widen margins considerably. " Foskor is a great growth story," says Horn, " having been turned around by a strong and capable new management team. From 2003 to 2005, Foskor made huge losses; but under the stewardship of the CEO, Alfred Pitse, a new performance- driven culture was introduced to raise efficiencies and cost controls. Foskor will soon announce record profits that were achieved on the back of dedicated work and extreme fiscal discipline," he says. - Editorial research by Robbie Hodgson Foskor July 09 www. bus- ex. com 53