By Roger Chesher

THE marketplace anticipates big events from the fertiliser industry with plant closures and joint ventures – although it is easy to overlook the quiet rationalisation which has been continuing in the background.

Kees Bleeker, managing director of Hydro Agri in the UK, summed it up with a nice analogy when he said “If you are bleeding, you stem the flow, or you have an operation, or you die”.

Hydro is stemming the flow at the moment in the UK by continuing to offer retirement or redundancy packages whenever opportunities are identified.

An unspecified number of commercial staff learnt this week that they will leave the organisation by June, but major “operations ” at the Hydro plant at Immingham still remain a matter of speculation.

Kemira have been quietly reducing staff numbers all year, but in insufficient numbers to prevent their “operation” in the form of a much-heralded joint venture or partnership, the details of which have yet to be unveiled.

Most interesting perhaps is Terra Nitrogen UK. For years now we are used to hearing that this operation is for sale, or that Severnside will close. But to what extent is that just wishful thinking on the part of Terras competitors.

Terra started the year as the leanest and lowest cost operator and by cutting fixed costs further and losing another 80 or so people must now be very lean and mean indeed.

With their industrial and process chemical sales in profit they could be the first into fertiliser profit when prices recover and could well provide the base for the quality nitrogen price for many years to come.

The level of autumn planting, quota levels, low farm stocks and no change in set aside all point to a very busy market in spring.

Despite this merchants and manufacturers continue a standoff over price, with the latter insisting Nitrogen is £87/tonne and the former occasionally prepared to trade at less, presumably being prepared to risk losing money by doing so.

The NPK market has yet to start.

CURRENT MARKETS

Immediate delivery N
(no market)
December delivery N
January/February delivery N Imported urea Imported N deliver December Imported 0.26.26 Domestic 0.24.24 blended Liquid N, 37kg/100l or 29.6% N/t
£87 £88 £90 £85-90 granular/
&prilled – no market
£73-75 £None available £114-115 £95/100,000 litres or £76/t

NPK Pre-Christmas, pay April January/February, pay April
Complex 25.5.5 97 100
15.15.20 127 130
20.10.10/29.5.5 110 115
17.17.17 130 133

N/S (High S) N/S (Low S) TSP (47% P2O5) Muriate of Potash (60% K2O)
87 87 125 120

 

IRELAND
No urea market at present

  Imported CAN

CAN

0.23.24

0.16.36

Complex compounds

Northern Ireland Prices withdrawn No market 132 132 No market
 

CAN

0.10.20

Urea, imported

0.7.30

Republic of Ireland* No market 140 130 140

*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..

*Prices in the Republic are IR£

 

Note All illustrated prices are based upon 20 tonne loads for immediate payment. Prices for smaller loads and those with credit terms will vary considerably.

Source: Bridgewater Associates