So far, world food supply has managed to stay ahead of rising population due to increasing productivity and a modest expansion of cultivated area. However, finite resource reserves, the increasing cost of energy and the increasing environmental cost of opening new land pose new challenges. Africa is a special case where increased food production has come mainly from expansion of farmland, while low fertiliser use and extensive soil mining have retarded productivity. Recent limited public–private initiatives show promise of reversing this low productivity. Global food security depends on a focused effort to increase production of food crops; in this effort fertiliser must play an important part. Government policy must be supportive of the provision of purchasing power support for smallholder farmers using such instruments as vouchers. The production agronomic performance of current fertiliser products is quite inefficient and must be improved. New products using new resources must be developed. Much of the nutrient content of current fertiliser products is wasted at high cost to the environment because only 30–40% is absorbed by crops. This can be improved by better application techniques and improved products, and by improving crop attributes. There is also ample scope for increased use of nutrientbearing waste products. Nanotechnology and biotechnology open new opportunities for collaborative research between the public and private sectors. For the world to be provided the next generation of fertilisers, the private sector must play a significant role — in partnership with public institutions.