Brisk business as 2008/09 fertiliser season begins - FWi

FWi -- By the eve of the 2008/2009 fertiliser season, which officially started on 1 June, prices had been issued for some time and brisk business had already been completed.

Farmers and retailers are so well acquainted by the various factors in the global fertiliser market contributing to todays extraordinary prices, that cost is not so much an issue as volume.

By issuing prices for June, July and August cash delivery, manufacturers have managed to offer at least some kind of early delivery rebate structure and have avoided the kind of mad panic buying which has characterised June in some previous years. All retail customers have been given an allocation of product and are reported to be managing well. The prices are £325/t, £330 and £335 for the three months respectively.

Building confidence

To further attempt to inject some structured confidence into the market, smaller volumes have been tentatively offered through to the end of the year at £339, £342, £345 and £348 for September, October, November and December respectively.

Given that GrowHow has no control over its energy costs, or indeed over global pricing, this strategy includes a degree of risk. Compare the situation in France where ammonium nitrate costs are published only for the month of June. Only time will tell whether this truly represents a reflection of loyalty to merchant and farm customers, or an uncanny insight into future energy pricing.

Potash prices through the roof

While one could argue the modest changes in gas pricing could be absorbed by the manufacturer from time to time, the basic costs of P, K and S are something they can do nothing whatsoever about.

Therefore, compound prices have been published only for June and July and production of some higher PK analyses has been suspended by some suppliers. Potash prices are through the roof with a price of $1,000/t forecast for the second part of the year.

This will particularly affect the aftercut silage market where potash is so important from the agronomic point of view. Usually on a par in price with straight AN, aftercut blends of N and K are now as much as £345/t depending on analysis. This is a market where careful attention to unit prices of nutrients pays off, as there are many analyses to choose from. A less saturated blend will be cheaper per tonne, but may not necessarily be the best value.