Wholesale Fertilizer Prices Fall on Weak Spring Demand

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In late May, at the main US import hub, New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA), urea barges were valued at $570-595/t FOB for shipment through June, down from $620-720 in April. Prices were supported by the return of India with a tender, but that proved to be short-lived. With domestic demand for urea still very weak in the United States, prices have started to decline again.

Terminals along major stretches of the Mississippi River have been less susceptible to price volatility at NOLA, with even less buying interest from end users than merchants. However, values ​​still ended May down $65-$100/t from April offers at a range of $610-$680 FOB.

Russian urea began to return to US ports after the decline seen in the first weeks of the conflict in Ukraine, and therefore sales are reported as coming from Russian or non-Russian sources for market indexing purposes and preference of buyers.

Urea demand will likely suffer due to the large amount of corn acres being held back from planting in the Dakotas, and with lower ammonia and UAN prices to compete with urea as a nitrogen source , we expect urea to be somewhat stable on the downside in the near term.

International:

May saw India’s return to the international market with its new tender, which provided support to an otherwise weak market due to the lack of nitrogen in Brazil and the US spot trade was revitalized following India’s tender, which attracted over 2.6 million tonnes of urea. The bidders accepted some 1.65 million tonnes of urea orders against RCF’s counter at around $716 to $721 CFR India.

Despite the Indian tender, prices in Brazil fell in May. The country is between planting seasons, and with little need for more produce, prices have dropped nearly $200 to $660-$680/mt CFR. Meanwhile, in Egypt, prices similarly fell by around $150 from April to $720 – $730/mt FOB as the downtrend took hold in the market ahead of the end of the month after the conclusion of the Indian tender.

While sentiment is certainly more positive following India’s purchase of 1.65m tonnes, very slow activity in Brazil and the rest of Latin America continues to cast a shadow over spot values, and our price outlook is weaker as bids will likely continue to come under pressure .

UAN

May was largely a weak month for UANs as the drop in prices for other nitrogen fertilizers became steep and forced sellers to reduce their offers to stay competitive. Sidedress was also just getting started in some parts of the country, which limited spot demand throughout the month.

The biggest price drops came from the Mississippi River terminals in late May, which fell from $655 to $665/t FOB in April to $620 to $640 in St. Louis and Cincinnati. In early June, prices would continue to fall to $600/t or even below.

NOLA barge offers fell from $630/t FOB in April to $600-$620 last month, falling to a lesser extent at river terminals. As usual, however, United States Gulf barges are in low seasonal demand relative to upstream availability of tanks and terminals for faster pull.

In eastern Oklahoma, UAN 32% mill volumes fell in step with river terminals to hit the $600-625/t mark from $645-650 in April.

Demand for Sidedress is starting to take off in the US, which could help stabilize nitrogen values ​​over the next few weeks. However, a softer tone in the nitrogen markets persists, with near-term price levels forecast flat to falling.

Further developments in the UAN import injury investigations are expected later this summer, including a series of final duty rates from the U.S. Department of Commerce. More government officials are also taking note of the rights’ impact on farmers, with the Michigan House of Representatives passing a resolution calling on Congress to address “continued increases and shortages in fertilizer prices.”

PHOSPHATES

Domestic:

Bad weather in March and April brought a premature end to much of the U.S. phosphate demand forecast for the spring, with the bulk of buyer interest centered on overnight buying only for immediate needs and purchase by barge for re-exports.

In the US Gulf, NOLA barges for DAP fell from $880-895/t FOB in April to $830 in May, with the price drop attributed to a lack of buying interest. MAP interest was also slow and priced at a $10/t premium to DAP at $840 FOB at the end of May, down about $50 from April.

Terminals along the Mississippi River moved mostly in line with lower barge numbers throughout the month, ending May at $880-950/t FOB for DAP and $900-950 for MAP, or $50-100 less than the previous month.

This mostly slow and soft period in the phosphate market is expected to continue in the near term, until the next generally high interest buying period for summer refill. However, producers told Fertecon during the first week of June that there were no imminent plans to issue a summer filler schedule.

International:

Global phosphate prices fell in May due to a lack of demand in key buying markets, including India as well as North and South America. The phosphate market was characterized by an oversupply of DAP in the east and a willingness of producers to defend MAP/DAP prices in the west.

In Brazil, for example, MAP prices fell from $1,300/mt CFR in April to $1,110. Latin American buyers were wary of committing to additional purchases, expecting prices to fall and hoping not to get burned.

Last month, the Indian government ordered importers not to buy products above $925-$930/ton CFR, prompting purchases to fall to $920 or around $5 lower from ‘april. How much India ends up buying this year will have a big impact, and DAP consumption volumes remain a concern due to government low price guidelines.

The drop in stocks in Brazil points to a return in demand with the upcoming harvest. Until then, we expect global phosphate prices to be weak in the near term absent significant demand from India and the Americas.

POTASH

Like phosphates, the potash market also remained calm in May. Import volumes from Russia and Canada continued to put pressure on US domestic prices, driving prices down from April.

NOLA granular barges, for example, were valued between $770 and $780/t FOB, compared to $800 the previous month. According to USDA NASS, godwit demand has been lackluster, with the pre-plant application window largely past and the corn planting rate catching up to the five-year average rate by the end of May.

River terminal volumes were slower to decline alongside barge values ​​and remained between $780 and $815/t FOB, at rates above NOLA equivalents, but down $25 m/m .

The spring season appears to have started too late to revive rapid demand for potash, and price levels are not attractive for fill purchases, with most waiting to buy additional volumes until the end of the season. Relatively weak demand in May in Brazil also depressed world prices and led to a lower outlook for the world market.

In the near term, potash prices are expected to hold steady or decline, with no further buying likely until additional fill programs open later in the year.

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Editor’s Note: This information was provided courtesy of Fertecon, Agribusiness Intelligence, IHS Markit.

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