Farmers rush to secure fertiliser early

A significant proportion of early buyers have committed to nitrogen purchase at new season prices of £178 and above, according to GrowHow.

“The price structure has held up and many merchants are sold out beyond September,” the firm’s marketing manager Ken Bowler said. The typical price for July nitrogen is £180/t, £182/t for August, and £186/t in September. For early October it is £190/t and £193/t for the end of that month.

Looking beyond harvest, the trend is less clear. Manufacturers have upward cost pressures in the winter as gas prices rise, but these have to be balanced by market trends. So far, there are some indications of urea firming, but no major new pressures.

Does this mean that we have entered a period of price stability in the fertiliser market? If so, then nitrogen should be below £200/t until Christmas and slightly above that figure after the New Year.

Phosphate prices are also more realistic with 0.24.24 going onto farm around £278/t, better still, potash prices have “seen a correction” and dropped to £418 /t for muriate. The drivers behind muriate costs are currency exchange rates and overseas markets, but K+S UK & Eire Ltd (formerly Potash Ltd), who trade in euros, have injected a significant discount into the marketplace which equates to £100/t over last month. This brings potash back to May 2008 levels and is intended to stimulate autumn sales.

This has to be good news in the light of the recently published 2008 edition of the British Survey of Fertiliser Practice. This showed a continuing decline in the use of P and K on both arable and grassland soils in 2008, something which will only be worse this year as industry sources reveal a further decline in PK deliveries by as much as 40%.

Together with sulphur, P and K have a marked effect on the efficiency of nitrogen use and whilst it is popular to stress the environmental effects of such inefficiency with nitrate and nitrous oxide losses, the bottom line is crop loss.

Of course farmers must carefully monitor the cost of inputs, especially nitrogen, but in doing so it is imperative not to neglect the basics of soil analysis and balanced manuring.

The NFU and Farmers Weekly have relaunched the Inputs Price Monitor Survey. Completing the form will enable us to publish monthly data on the price of inputs to help you benchmark your business. Click here to take part.

July 2009 (£/t delivered)*

UK SP5 34.5% N

NK aftercut grades (Full analysis)

Imported urea (Granular)

Imported AN (Dependant on quality)

£180

£250

£200-220 Lithan

£175 (spot)

Complex 25.5.5

Blended 20.10.10

Phosphate (TSP )

Potash (Muriate)

£205

£220

£208

£418

*All illustrated prices are based upon 24t loads for cash payment month following. Prices for smaller loads and 50kg bags will vary considerably.

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