August fertiliser bills put pressure on farm cash flows

Market Commentary by independent consultant Roger Chesher (3 September 2008)


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As is usual during harvest , new orders for fertiliser at merchant level are few and far between. A late harvest is also providing a challenge to get existing orders delivered, and some farmers are finding it difficult to pay the August fertiliser bill as cash flow is compromised for the same reason.

There has been speculation over the anticipated end of the Chinese internal tax on urea exports. This, it was hoped, would end in September but today there are fears that the tax will be increased to 185%, making it even less likely that Chinese urea will soon enter the global market again.

There are fears that 2.5-2.9 million tonnes could be in warehouses, stockpiled for export should restrictions be relaxed. Taking such a quantity off the market will not have had the desired effect of pushing the internal price down, stimulating home sales and reducing food prices for the Chinese people. Therefore the period of tax is extended and the level increased.

The conflict in Georgia has halted its fertiliser exports, but there is still plenty of AN available from Russia, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Poland from £365-385/t for October.

Conversely, domestic AN is sold out until January when it is priced around £410/t., whereas Urea is plentiful around £500. A September top-up of liquid UAN will cost £1.15/ kilo N, roughly equivalent to £400/t for 34.5%AN.

October prices for compound fertiliser (NPK/S) have now been published and reflect the horrendous price level of phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K). Triplesuperphosphate is now £700/t and surrounded by fears that currency exchange rates may push it as high as £760. Muriate of potash stands at £600 to £630/t and many arable farmers are starting to join their grassland cousins in exhibiting price resistance to these nutrients.

Attention to agronomy detail is now seen as paramount, and not before time according to fertiliser agronomists who have sometimes felt themselves the Cinderellas opf their profession in the past. For example, on an 11t/ha crop of wheat, removal of 60% of the straw denies the following crop of £70/ha value of P and K.

Although harvest is late, especially north of the border, yields are good and general opinion states that nitrogen, despite modern prices, still pays.

A further strong market is anticipated therefore, but perhaps not with the usual pre-Christmas rush.





Domestic N
(34.5%N) SP5

Imported AN 
eg Lithuanian

Imported urea

Liquid UAN
37kg N/100litre

 (28.8 %N/t)





Increasing volumes            now tracking domestic price








TSP (47%P2O5)

£700+ tight availability


Muriate of Potash (60%K2O)














Broadly similar





£ not available






20.10.10 / 27.5.5

£435 if offered

Broadly similar






None in production






Aftercuts (NK) (with sulphur)


£419 Aug













Autumn grades (PK)


£560+ when offered.











Trace elements

Copper, zinc, selenium,
cobalt Iodine and sodium

£11.80/acre pack


IRELAND (All prices volatile)








No market

Highly volatile spot prices

Highly volatile spot prices

Highly volatile spot prices

No longer used

Phosphate regulations

of Ireland


Highly volatile spot prices

Highly volatile spot prices


No Market.

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.

Source: Bridgewater



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