By Mike Stickland
THE sale of ICI Fertilisers triggered some interest in the market towards the end of November, but the sector remains fundamentally weak.
All three domestic fertiliser manufacturers have closed their books to merchants for the time being. They are trying to get merchant purchases moved and hoping for a new start after additional anti-dumping levies are announced for Russian ammonium nitrate in the next few weeks.
To some extent, this has backfired – clearance of merchant orders has reduced prices even further in some areas.
The uncertainties of minimum import prices has encouraged offerings of non-Russian imported AN.
But it is clear that until market demand is adequate, prices will tend to fall rather than rise. Some interest has emerged for spring NPK grades, although little has happened physically.
NPK 20-20-20 is being offered at £115-118/ t, but blends are £3-4 cheaper.
The market for PK fertilisers has drifted back a little.
Merchants are nervous about the logistical problem facing them this spring. There will be more imported and domestic fertiliser to handle in January than for many years, but there is a backlog of grain to be shifted too.
Fertiliser prices, December 1997 (£/t) (updated monthly)
Region Domestic AN Imported AN 20-10-10
South East 96-102 84-88 111/116 110-114
South West 97-102 83-89 112/117 111-114
East Anglia 95-101 83-88 110/115 110-113
Midlands 99-102 84-90 112/116 111-114
Wales 97-105 88-90 113/118 113-116
North East 96-102 83-90 111/116 112-114
North West 97-101 85-91 112/117 112-116
Scotland 97-102 83-90 112/117 113-117