July, August and September allocations of domestic nitrogen have already been sold together with large tranches of the October to December current availability, about 30% of the expected whole for those months.

There are fears that the remaining 70% of October-December manufacture may attract yet another price rise when it comes on stream in October, this time around £20/t making AN £368/t by Christmas. Today the October price is £342/t.

However unpalatable these prices are, availability is clearly the big issue. At least in the UK it is possible to see some structure in the nitrogen market up until Christmas. In the rest of Europe, prices are still issued monthly.

After Christmas, who knows? Manufacturers are worried about widely publicised winter gas costs, but concede that we must be near to the top of the price cycle curve now.

Potassium costs escalate
There is no such confidence when it comes to potassium. Although the cost per acre is lower than that for nitrogen, the retail farm value per tonne currently exceeds £550. On mainland Europe the wholesale price is currently €600/t bulk, but no sooner than costs appear on these pages, they seem to escalate. Global prices of $1050/t .have been reported.

Bigger users of Potash, for example, India, are showing no price resistance and any such resistance by the UK has no effect whatsoever on global prices. Muriate of potash will exceed £600/t in Britain by the spring.

Fortunately, greater profit by the potash industry does allow for further investment, so reinvestment in both green and brownfield sites is taking place, notably in Canada and Russia. However, the time scale for greenfield development is 5-7 years, with three for brownfield sites, so shortages and high prices are forecast for at least the medium term.

Potash supplies finely balanced
With an estimated 51mt of production in 2006 against sales of 50.7mt worldwide, potash supplies are finely balanced. Current planned investment could cope with a further 3% increase in demand, but some forecasts place global demand as high as 63.9mt by 2111.

Potash is traded in dollars, so currency fluctuation also plays its part. And with no global stocks to hand, the future for potash pricing looks grim for the consumer. The one saving grace in the potash saga is that global reserves, underground, are high. The long term supply is still assured.

Phosphate reserves compromised
No such assurance is available for the phosphate industry whose reserves are severely compromised. Politicians with any interest in safeguarding food supplies for future generations should divorce themselves from mere five year planning and seriously look ahead.

The current, practical, outcome of all of this is that UK farmers find it harder to obtain conventional higher PK compound fertilisers, such as 20.10.10, and, when they are available, products such as 16.16.16 are now £565 per tonne!

Soil analysis, once a Cinderella service, must surely now be in enormous demand as fertiliser agronomy, too often performed on the back of a fag packet, now come of age.

Great Britain

Straight

Domestic N
(34.5%N) SP5

Imported AN 
eg Lithuanian

Imported urea

Liquid UAN
37kg N/100litre

 (28.8 %N/t)

 

 

£342-345-348

Oct-Nov-Dec

Increasing volume at or around domestic price

£425 +

no prices

 

 

 

 

TSP (47%P2O5)

£640+ tight availability

 

Muriate of Potash (60%K2O)

£550 rapid change

 

 

Compound

N.P.K

Complex

Blended

 

 

 

25.5.5

£385

August

Broadly similar

 

 

 

15.15.20

£ not available

 14.14.20

£565

 

 

 

20.10.10 / 27.5.5

£425 if offered

Broadly similar

 

 

 

17.17.17

Outpriced £500+

None in production

16.16.16

£565

 

 

 

Aftercuts (NK)

 

£390 Aug

 

 

 

23.4.13.7 Sulphur

 £395

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn grades (PK)

 

£500+ when offered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trace elements

Copper, zinc, selenium,
cobalt Iodine and sodium

£11.80/acre pack


Ireland (All prices volatile)

 

Urea

CAN

25.0.13
aftercut*

27.0.6

27.6.6
complex**

Northern
Ireland

No market

Highly volatile spot prices

Highly volatile spot prices

Highly volatile spot prices

No longer used

Phosphate regulations

Republic
of Ireland

 

Highly volatile spot prices

Highly volatile spot prices

 

No Market.



†Note in the Republic of Ireland nutrients are expressed as elements not oxides.  Analyses will not be directly comparable with those used in the UK.
*Known as 24.2½.10 blend in the Republic of Ireland
**Known as 27.2½.5 in ROI


Note All illustrated prices are based upon 24 tonne loads for immediate payment. Prices for smaller loads and those with credit terms will vary considerably.

Source: Bridgewater