Grassland fert market limps into gear

Sales of compound fertiliser in the grassland sector have started to come in, but it has been a late start to the spring season and deliveries are at least 10% down on last year.

Slightly lower prices for the farmer and movement for the manufacturer should spell good news all round but that is not the reality.

Farm prices are still £8-10/t more than last year for compounds and £15/t more for home produced ammonium nitrate.

And however high prices seem, they are not sufficient to cover increased manufacturing costs brought about by winter gas prices.

Indeed, the two UK manufacturers have posted losses for the first three months of 2006.

Kemira has even suffered a breakdown which shut down the ammonia plant, this time during a period of reasonable gas costs and potential profit.

The prospect of a similar winter of gas costs later this year will dominate the future policy of the UK manufacturers.

Market leader Terra and Kemira will want to go flat out when costs are lowest, and build stocks against periods of shutdown during high gas pricing.

This means there is no longer any great incentive to set a low price for new season nitrogen in June. At £150/t, prices will be around £10/t up on last year.

High nitrogen prices are reflected in the price of NK aftercut fertilisers at the start of their sales period this month. ”Full analysis” products such as 25.0.16 or 26.0 15 are on sale around £150/tonne.

Quite a few aftercut products with lower, less saturated analyses are also on sale and unit cost comparisons are usually worthwhile in this market. The cheapest per tonne may not always be the best value.

Like potash, sulphur has a marked effect on the efficiency of nitrogen use by second cut silage crops.

When times are difficult and fertiliser costs high there is a great temptation to cut out nutrients perceived as secondary.

This can be a great mistake: £1 spent on NPKS can easily out-yield £1 spent on a larger amount of nitrogen alone.

The expected mad market rush has also failed to materialise in Ireland.

April was a reasonable time for sales, but all is now very quiet in a market always dominated by weather conditions.

With winter feed reserves used up, farmers are expected to buy more fertiliser again very soon.

Urea has always been a popular early fertiliser for Irish grass farmers, but the season has been so late that this market has failed.

Prices in both Northern Ireland and the Republic have eased as in the UK, but more so in the north than in Eire.



Great Britain


Domestic N (34.5%N) SP5

May £160

Imported AN (Russian/Lith)


Imported urea

no trade 

Liquid UAN
37kg/100litres (29.6%N/t)

no market

TSP (47%P2O5)


Muriate of Potash(60%K2O)








From £148




20.10.10 / 27.5.5


From £149




Aftercuts NK



27.6.6 (imported)



32.5.0 (imported)

no market

Autumn grades (PK)



Trace elements

Copper, zinc, selenium,
cobalt Iodine and sodium

£11.80/acre pack


Straight and compound


Northern Ireland

Republic of Ireland†


no market no market
CAN £145 €210-215

24.6.12 aftercut*


no market




27.6.6 complex**


€265 (CCF)
€235 import blend

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