17 April 1997

Bigger fertiliser bills on way for UK?

FARMERS could face bigger fertiliser bills as UK manufacturers look to make up for a 200,000t expected shortfall in ammonium nitrate imports this season.

Whether makers manage to fill the gap and raise prices depends on the tonnage of imports in store and that still to arrive, and the buying habits of growers.

At a Terra Nitrogen (UK) briefing last week, commercial manager, Stuart Beer, said he believed there was still a fairly large portion of the market to fill, since domestic deliveries were similar to last year and imports were down.

"It depends how much of the market is left as to whether we can get to £110-£115/t on farm," he said.

At present, with demand slack, UK-made product is available on farm at £100/t plus, while imported Russian material is mainly costing £92 to £94/t and imports from other sources in the high £80s/t delivered.

The imposition of the new anti-dumping levy on Russian material since Mar 27 has had little effect on prices, and the forecast 200,000t drop in imports may be partly cushioned by lower demand, say traders.

Fertiliser consumption in Western Europe will fall almost 6%. The drop will be driven by GATT/ WTO pressures, said Mr Beer. &#42

Suzie Horne