THE FERTILISER market is unusually stagnated for early January.

Normally, an active pre-Christmas sales period helps to firm prices for January through to March.

But this season has seen unusually high volumes of very early buying and as a result the normal pattern has been completely disrupted.

Not only has the purchase period shifted, but the buyer profile has also altered.

The discrepancy between prices has lead to traditional urea buyers switching to ammonium nitrate, unusually cheaper on a unit cost basis.

This all means that market forecasting is unusually difficult this season and the size of the remaining grassland market is very difficult to grasp.

Many grass farmers themselves are still unsure what their requirements will be in March, given the drive for change brought about by CAP reform.

An unusually long Christmas break over which production kept going has enabled manufacturers‘ stocks to rise a little, helped by Kemira GrowHow‘s ammonia plant at Ince coming back into production after repairs.

However, stock levels generally throughout Europe are at an all-time low.

With new farm gate sales at a minimum, manufacturers and merchants are concentrating on fulfilling existing orders.

There is no stimulus for importing fertiliser from outside the EU and import sales are significantly lower than last season.

In this stagnant period the AN price of £157/t may well hold through to March, but no doubt this week will be used to review price lists and new terms may well be forthcoming.