By Mike Stickland
AS the combines started rolling, the volume of fertiliser trade dropped smartly.
There is a great deal of talk still about low prices, but little actual business is taking place. Farmers who have bought product at open prices are certainly not talking the price up. It is unlikely that, over the dull period of trade during harvest, manufacturers will be able to raise values.
The PK market has been active, but not enough to remove the fierce competition between suppliers, which has brought prices down despite the slimmest of margins. The lull in trade during harvest will probably see makers reviewing their situation and seeking a viable margin.
There has been some activity in urea for delivery in December. The trader responsible is taking a view of the market, which is most probably right. At £97/ t for prills in bags the deal offers a cost per unit 17% better than £85/ t for ammonium nitrate. Prilled urea cannot be spread reliably to the same widths as ammonium nitrate and on some soils, in some conditions, there is a potential for nitrogen losses. But any unit price more than 10% cheaper must be considered.
Fertiliser prices, July 1998 (£/t) (updated monthly)
Region Domestic AN Urea Prills 0-24-24 South East 85-88 97-99 107-110
South West 87-89 97-99 108-111
East Anglia 85-88 97-99 107-110
Midlands 86-88 97-99 107-111
Wales 88-90 NM 108-112
North East 85-87 97-99 107-111
North West 86-90 NM 109-112
Scotland 85-89 NM 108-112