New year opens with nitrogen price cut

A surprise drop of more than £10/t in UK manufactured ammonium nitrate (AN) prices was the opening move of the new year.

This puts product on farm at about £278-£280/t for full loads delivered in February on normal payment terms. March tonnage is also available at about £3/t above these levels.

As Farmers Weekly went to press on Wednesday (9 January), further tonnage at a new price was released for January.

At about £276/t for full loads, this was also well down on December, when product was going onto farm at £298-£300/t.

Traders expected the January tonnage to be taken up rapidly and to be withdrawn by the end of the week.

See also: Business Clinic – should I move to liquid fertiliser?

With farmer ordering across the whole spring fertiliser market about 15-20% behind year ago levels, merchants fear a spring fertiliser logistics squeeze. Availability on other types of fertiliser is generally good, although stocks are generally tighter on the western side of the UK than in the east.

At £260-£270/t for January and February deliveries, imported AN in the form of Pulan or Lithan is only slightly cheaper than home-produced material, with Russian product available in some areas at about £5/t less than this.

Importers with shipments due to arrive in December will have been hit by the CF Fertilisers UK decision to reduce January and February AN prices, say traders.

Straights trade is relatively quiet, with  good availability. However, with the UK at a lower price than mainland Europe, DAP suppliers are trying to push the price up and recently achieved another £5/t or so to put on-farm prices at £405-£410/t for January/February deliveries.

The blenders are largely waiting for the grassland market to get going, with 20:10:10 quoted at £270-£281/t for January/February and 25:5:5 at £268-£270/t on the same basis.  

Cashflow and high feed costs through winter have held back grassland farmers from ordering. Dave Mitchell, fertiliser manager at Shropshire-based Wynnstay, fears an early spring would see early turnout and a rush of orders that suppliers will find it hard to fulfil.

“If that’s the case, farmers will not necessarily get their product of choice, it will be what is available,” he said.

“Every week that goes by and they do not order is a week that you don’t get back in distribution terms. On the other hand, there could be snow in March and that changes the issues again.”

Fertiliser update (£/t delivered January/February 2019*)

UK 34.5% N (Feb) £278-£280
Imported AN £265-£272
Granular urea 46% N £285-£292
Potash MOP £275-£280
Phosphate DAP £405-£410
Phosphate TSP £330-£340
20:10:10 (blend) £270-£281
25:5:5 (blend) £268-£270
All illustrated prices are based on full loads for cash payment on 28-day terms. * Unless otherwise indicated