DEMAND FOR compound fertiliser for the grassland market could be much higher than expected, according to a manufacturers and merchants.

If 40-50% of the market remains, it would mean some 450,000-500,000t to be moved in March and April which is quite a challenge, but one which the industry should achieve.

The legal requirements for moving compound fertilisers are less stringent than those for straight nitrogen, so a wider variety of transport may be used.

Even so, it will be tight and farmers may not get exactly the brand or grade they require on the day they expect it.

If these forecasts prove valid, there will be upwards pressure on pricing as stocks are extremely low.

Stocks of ammonium nitrate are also low, with Kemira the only company to offer immediate delivery against new orders.

But this is of no consequence because immediate demand is virtually non-existent and all the manufacturers will have material available in March.

Those top dressing arable crops now purchased fertiliser at the beginning of the season, and others are holding back, aware that in some regions over-wintering soil N levels are high.

Early buying has led some merchants to warn customers to book now for next season, and every indicator points to the wisdom of early buying.

Their logic is that manufacturers this season have made a lot of product with expensive winter gas, having sold it at cheaper July prices.

Not wishing to do so again, the market may well return to the more transparent practice of matching sales and pricing to monthly production.