By the eve of the 2008/2009 fertiliser season, which officially started on 1 June, prices had been issued for some time and brisk business had already been completed.
Farmers and retailers are so well acquainted by the various factors in the global fertiliser market contributing to today’s extraordinary prices, that cost is not so much an issue as volume.
By issuing prices for June, July and August cash delivery, manufacturers have managed to offer at least some kind of early delivery rebate structure and have avoided the kind of mad panic buying which has characterised June in some previous years. All retail customers have been given an allocation of product and are reported to be managing well. The prices are £325/t, £330 and £335 for the three months respectively.
To further attempt to inject some structured confidence into the market, smaller volumes have been tentatively offered through to the end of the year at £339, £342, £345 and £348 for September, October, November and December respectively.
Given that GrowHow has no control over its energy costs, or indeed over global pricing, this strategy includes a degree of risk. Compare the situation in France where ammonium nitrate costs are published only for the month of June. Only time will tell whether this truly represents a reflection of loyalty to merchant and farm customers, or an uncanny insight into future energy pricing.
Potash prices “through the roof”
While one could argue the modest changes in gas pricing could be absorbed by the manufacturer from time to time, the basic costs of P, K and S are something they can do nothing whatsoever about.
Therefore, compound prices have been published only for June and July and production of some higher PK analyses has been suspended by some suppliers. Potash prices are “through the roof” with a price of $1,000/t forecast for the second part of the year.
This will particularly affect the aftercut silage market where potash is so important from the agronomic point of view. Usually on a par in price with straight AN, aftercut blends of N and K are now as much as £345/t depending on analysis. This is a market where careful attention to unit prices of nutrients pays off, as there are many analyses to choose from. A less saturated blend will be cheaper per tonne, but may not necessarily be the best value.
Slow sales in Northern Ireland
PK costs are already having a massive effect on husbandry practices, particularly so in the grass dominated economy of Northern Ireland. Here, compound sales are extremely slow, leaving the market dominated by straight nitrogen in the form of CAN. At £290/t this equates to AN at £385/t, which would present a frightful shock to a grass farmer in Britain. Beef and suckler cow businesses in Ireland are being forced to examine the viability of such enterprises.
The CAN market itself in Ireland is some 6-10% down on previous years and stocks are plentiful. With most stocks built in March and April when prices were lower, Irish farmers may have some room for negotiation.
No such opportunity in Britain, however, as these days product leaves the factories the month in which it is made.
Limited imports £320+
£640+ tight availability
Muriate of Potash (60%K2O)
£ not available
20.10.10 / 27.5.5
£383 if offered
None in production
Autumn grades (PK)
£485-£500 when offered.
Copper, zinc, selenium,
No longer used
†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.