20 February 1998

Fertiliser delay likely

BIG fertiliser delivery problems are looming as farmers wait until the last minute to place orders. Meanwhile, prices are rising.

Many livestock farmers are being advised to apply fertiliser now as grassland reaches T-sum 200 early (see Livestock, page 50). And cereal crops will need applications soon.

"Farmers who have not yet ordered fertiliser or arranged delivery are likely to experience serious delays. Moving products is going to be a big problem," says UKASTA fertiliser chairman, Tony Simpson.

"Demands over the next couple of months will be horrendous," agrees Dalgetys Gary White. "Farmers should really think about getting something on farm."

Imported nitrogen users already face a two- or three-week delay – none has been stored, and imports are about 200,000t behind, says Cargills Paul Antcliff.

Price of east European imported N has risen £10/t dockside in the last month, partly due to the shortage, says Mr Antcliff. Anticipation of a new tax to replace the minimum import price, which protects European manufacturers from dumping, has also had an effect. It was expected to add on a further £7-8/t to Jan prices.

lNorsk Hydros agricultural division slipped into the red in the final quarter of last year. Falling fertiliser prices and sales contributed to the £15.6m operating loss. The firm made a £31m profit in the corresponding period in 1996. The slump means Norsks overall income from agriculture in 1997 dropped by almost half, to £110m, according to preliminary results. &#42