By Mike Stickland
The weather, combined with the hand-to-mouth buying policy of many farmers, has kept the market weak and low.
It is becoming clear now that the total consumption of fertilisers this year must be very much down on previous years, some say as much as 15%.
Although imports are dramatically lower, there has been a steady stream of vessels during the past few weeks, most of which have been sold to a number of UK merchants, and there has been no shortage of product to supply. The small increase in price for imported product reflects increased costs rather than increased demand.
The price spread for domestic ammonium nitrate has widened, largely because Terra Nitrogen has been aggressively trying to shift additional tonnage. Hydro and Kemira have been trying without much success to push the market up.
Demand, particularly in the western half of the country, could be strong for another month, but it seems unlikely now that there will be any difficulty meeting it, and little prospect of rising prices.
Should one of the other UK producers be the buyer of Terra N later this month, we could see reduced UK capacity and stronger prices.
Fertiliser prices, March 1999 (£/t)
Region Domestic AN Imported AN Urea Prills blend 20.10.10 Blend 20.10.10 Cpd South East 92-97 78-82 NM 107-110 114-118
South West 91-96 78-83 95-98 107-110 112-117
East Anglia 92-97 78-82 89-94 105-110 115-117
Midlands 93-98 78-82 88-94 103-110 113-116
Wales 95-98 80-87 NM 107-112 115-118
North East 92-97 78-83 89-93 104-110 114-117
North West 93-98 78-84 NM 108-112 114-118
Scotland 93-97 77-84 NM 108-112 115-118