In recent years the fertiliser industry has been accused of crying wolf when it warned of serious delays in delivering spring nitrogen for immediate use.
Somehow, however, difficulties in transportation were always overcome and fertiliser was delivered more or less on time.
This season, warnings were justified with delays of ten days or more being reported in various parts of the country as merchants and manufacturers find it difficult to find enough suitably qualified and registered hauliers.
At least nitrogen fertiliser has not peaked dramatically and remains reasonably affordable around £161/tonne.
With more stability in energy markets, the vital gas feedstock has ceased to be the predominant factor controlling price and supply and demand has now taken over.
The balance is still in favour of maintaining price, but these have been stabilised by the slight weakening of the urea market.
Thank goodness that the atmosphere, the raw material for nitrogen fertiliser is free; it’s the energy that costs. The same, however, cannot be said for compound fertilisers as the price of phosphates has rocketed. This is because of massive increases in demand, recently by the United States with their interest in industrial cropping.
Many high phosphate grades are currently not in production as manufacturers await a return to more reasonable raw material prices.
Where available, triple 17 is in excess of £185/t and, with its higher phosphate content, 20.10.10 is approaching £10/t more expensive than 25.5.5. The price gap between them is normally £3/t.
Despite this, business for all grades of fertiliser is brisk. Deliveries in March and April were above average and there is every sign that the market is catching up on a poor start. Not surprisingly, stocks are dwindling.
The aftercut market is now underway and, as usual, prices mirror those of nitrogen. There is quite a wide spread of analyses in this market giving rise to varied pricing. As ever, careful cost comparisons are essential to spot the real bargains.
Last year saw an early start to the new season and there is speculation that this will happen again with prices for nitrogen revealed before the end of May. Farm values around £152/t are forecast.
Meanwhile, prices in Ireland have come as a shock to local farmers who tend to buy exclusively at the usage period and are therefore blind to continuing trends throughout the year.
Sellers are experiencing strong sabre rattling from the market place which still can’t quite accommodate to world prices following the loss of a strongly state subsidised local manufacturer.
The reality is that Irish farm prices, especially nitrogen, are currently considerably below world prices causing significant losses for the manufacturer.
|TSP (47%P2O5)||£185 upward trend|
|Muriate of Potash (60%K2O)||£154 upward trend|
20.10.10 / 27.5.5
Autumn grades (PK)
Copper, zinc, selenium,
cobalt Iodine and sodium
|No market||£140||£160-162||£160||No longer used Phosphate regulations|
*†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.
*Known as 24.2½.10 blend in the Republic of Ireland
**Known as 27.2½.5 in ROI
Note All illustrated prices are based upon 24 tonne loads for immediate payment.
Prices for smaller loads and those with credit terms will vary considerably.