By Roger Chesher
YET again it rains in lowland England, fields are at capacity, drains are running and rivers are near to bursting their banks.
Fertiliser application could not be further from farmers minds and, with the current state of farm incomes and cashflow, combined with an understandably complete lack of confidence in the livestock sector, no-one is interested in placing orders.
Merchants are much busier than usual with feed sales and soon will be shutting down for the Easter break.
The situation is baffling, say fertiliser traders, and the volume of outstanding spring sales is proving very hard to predict.
Some 400,000 tonnes of nitrogen could easily translate into twice as much tonnage when compounds are included, and the logistical problems could be horrendous.
Certainly, in terms of delivering the major part of the anticipated spring market, the next three to four weeks will be critical.
In the grass sector, the first application has now been virtually non-existent and it is difficult to establish how much of a first cut or grazing market is yet to come.
At a time when lorries would normally be blocking the approach roads to factories and stores, currently two or three is considered a queue.
Stocks are building in the supply chain.
Hydro is controlling the situation by limiting imports, while Kemira has reduced production of nitric acid.
Existing imports are not moving from storage and few, if any importers are interested in placing forward orders.
Price is not an issue, say manufacturers, and has been fairly static for some time.
The only real change in this area is that domestic nitrogen pricing has not moved up as expected to an April high.
Even the manufacture, planning and selling of second cut fertilisers is affected.
This normally takes place now, but with anticipated late or small first cuts, these products could well be replaced by straight nitrogen and slurry at the time of application.
The whole industry, manufacturer, merchant and farmer have little alternative than to simply take things one week at a time until familiar patterns begin to return.
New-season nitrogen (SP5) 34.5%
Anticipated spring price nitrogen
Imported urea (if available)
Imported AN (new season)
Blended 20.10.10 and 25.0.16
|Liquid nitrogen, 37kg/100l or 29.6% N/t|
April, pay cash (forecast)
After-cut NK cash
TSP (47% P2O5) bagged
Muriate of Potash (60% K2O) bagged
IRELAND CAN 24.6.12 0.16.36 Complex compounds
Domestic prilled 150
Republic of Ireland*
*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.
*Prices in the Republic are IR
Note All illustrated prices are based on 20-tonne loads for immediate payment. Prices for smaller loads and those with credit terms will vary considerably.
Source: Bridgewater Partnership