Mineral fertiliser market overview

According to the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA), mineral fertiliser consumption increased 0.5% to 184 mn t in terms of nutrient in 2014. Total nutrient consumption, including industrial products, was up 2% to 237 mn t.

Consumption of nitrogen and potash fertilisers was up 0.8% and 1.7%, respectively. Preliminary data show applications of phosphorous fertilisers down 1.3%. Increased consumption was recorded in Latin America and Africa, with stable numbers in Europe and Southeast Asia and lower consumption in the United States and India.

Global mineral fertiliser trading volumes reached record levels as consumers replenished inventory. Mineral fertiliser imports were up in North America and Latin America and Southeast Asia.

China retained its leading positions in global exports of urea and phosphorous fertilisers. The Chinese government once again dropped export duties for these types of fertilisers, resulting in an export boom.

According to the IFA estimates, global mineral fertiliser consumption will increase 1.1% in 2015. Nitrogen will show the highest growth (+1.3%). Total nutrient consumption, including industrial products, will grow 1.5-2% and will exceed 240 mn t.

While consumption is expected to be robust, global mineral fertiliser trading volumes may be held back by significant inventory in major consumer countries. China, whose government cancelled the export windows for nitrogen and phosphorous fertilisers, will continue boosting its exports.

Russian mineral fertiliser producers enjoy greater competitiveness as the rouble weakens.

Average Indicative Prices
USD/t, FOB Baltic/Black Sea

  Average prices  Year-end prices  
  2014 2013 Change 20142013Change
Urea 311 327 -4.8% 313 322 -3.0%
DAP 479 462 3.8% 488 408 19.6%
Potash 276 373 -26.1% 290 285 1.8%

Global Fertiliser Consumption
mn t

2013 2014E 2014/2013 2015F 2015/2014
Nitrogen N 110.9 111.8 0.8% 113.3 1.3%
Phosphorous P2O5 42.1 41.6 -1.3% 41.8 0.6%
Potash K2O 30.1 30.6 1.7% 30.9 0.9%
Total 183.1 184.0 0.5% 186.0 1.1%

Nitrogen

In 2014, China continued increasing its nitrogen fertiliser exports in response to declines in both urea export duties and the price of coal, the key input for nitrogen production in China. Over the course of the year, China’s urea exports went up 65%.

In contrast, disrupted gas supplies kept output down in several nitrogen exporting nations, namely Ukraine, Egypt and Iran.

According to the IFA estimates, nitrogen fertiliser consumption was up 0.8% to 111.8 mn t N in 2014. Higher consumption was recorded in major markets like India and Brazil. As a result, the nitrogen fertiliser market was in balance in 2014.

Urea prices went up at the beginning of the year due to traditionally active demand from the Northern Hemisphere before the start of the spring seeding season. Prices were down by April because of more aggressive Chinese exports and weaker buying activity off-season in the Northern Hemisphere. As buyers returned to the market in advance of the autumn seeding season and several nitrogen exporters experienced supply limitations, prices returned to the level of the beginning of the year.

China is expected to supply even more nitrogen in 2015, since urea export duties have been lowered again and the seasonal export window was cancelled. New capacity is also expected to come on line in the Middle East, North Africa, China and the United States over the next few years.

Conversely, gas supply disruptions will continue to suppress export volumes from Ukraine and Egypt. Nitrogen consumption will also continue to grow, both in the form of mineral fertilisers and industrial products. According to the IFA forecast, nitrogen fertiliser consumption will increase 1.3%, against 0.8% the previous year, and total nitrogen consumption will increase 2%.

On the whole, IFA forecast data show the demand and supply balance to remain unchanged in 2015.

Nitrogen Fertilisers and Industrial Products
mn t N

2013 2014E 2015F
Supply* 146.7 149.8 153.1
Demand 139.7 141.3 143.8
Potential balance 5% 6% 6%

Phosphates

In the reporting year, Latin America and Southeast Asia posted higher consumption of phosphorous fertilisers, while Indian consumers pulled back the second year in a row due to subsidy cuts. Consumption also decreased in the United States. According to the IFA estimates, global phosphorous fertiliser consumption decreased 1.3% to 41.6 mn t P2O5 in 2014.

China’s government lowered its export duties on phosphorous fertilisers, which resulted in DAP exports increasing 28%. India remained the major importer.

Globally, production of phosphorous fertilisers and phosphate feedstock was up 2-3% in the reporting year. Production of DAP, the main phosphorous fertiliser, remained the same year-on-year. While DAP output was up in Morocco and Saudi Arabia, it was down in the United States, where Mosaic stopped its DAP operations in respond to high ammonia and sulphur prices.

At the beginning of the year, DAP prices were up due to active demand and limited supply caused by logistics problems. During the spring season, prices went back down as exports from China increased and demand in India faltered. Prices recovered in the summer due to demand in Brazil and the United States. At the end of the year, prices were supported by Mosaic’s pullback on DAP.

According to the IFA estimates, phosphorous fertiliser consumption will recover in 2015, increasing 0.6% to 41.8 mn t P2O5. Demand is expected from India, which has low inventory, and Southeast Asia.

It is anticipated that Chinese producers will continue to boost exports of phosphorous fertilisers, since the government lowered its export duties in 2015 and cancelled the seasonal export window. New capacity is expected to come on line in Morocco.

Phosphoric Acid
mn t P2O5 *

2013 2014E 20145
Supply*44.9 46.3 47.4
Demand43.1 43.1 43.9
Balance4% 7% 7%

Potash

Potash fertiliser consumers saw their purchasing power increase in 2014 as prices slipped year-on-year. India posted greater demand, while orders from Latin America and Southeast Asia remained sparse. According to the IFA estimates, potash fertiliser consumption increased 1.7% to 30.6 mn t K2O.

Consumers also returned to the market to replenish their inventory after the wait-and-see position many adopted in the second half of 2013. Potash fertiliser sales went up 11% to 61.3 mn t. All major importers posted higher imports, especially the United States, India, Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Potash output was up 9% to 60.1 mn t or 36.2 mn t K2O in 2014. Russia and Belarus posted record production volumes. Effective capacities were 71 mn t of potash or 42.5 mn t K2O. Total effective capacity increased to 86%.

World Potash Production and Export
mn t

20132014E2015F
Supply**40.842.544.6
Demand33.934.534.9
Balance17%19%22%

Despite stronger demand and improved capacity utilization, potash fertiliser prices did not show significant growth due to increased competition.

According to the IFA estimates, consumption of potassium in mineral fertilisers will go up 0.9% in 2015 to 30.9 mn t K2O, and total potassium consumption, including industrial products, will go up 1.1% to 34.9 mn t K2O. However, new capacity will be brought on line even faster, resulting in an even greater mismatch between demand and supply.

Global potash fertiliser trading volume is expected to decrease due to high inventory levels in 2015. Inventory backlogs and poor price discipline among producers will combine to inhibit price growth.

Potash Fertilisers and Industrial Products
mn t K2O

20132014E2015F
Supply**40.842.544.6
Demand33.934.534.9
Balance17%19%22%

NPK

NPK prices recovered in 2014 after a drop in the second half of 2013. This development was fuelled by recovering prices in the markets for component nutrients. The NPK price advantage over the basket of component nutrients remained high.

NPK is increasingly popular around the world due to its ease of storage and application. China is one of the major NPK production and consumption markets. In addition to large-scale domestic production, China annually imports significant tonnage of complex fertilisers. Other Asian, South American and African countries are aggressively expanding their NPK consumption following China’s lead. Complex fertilisers are invariably popular in the CIS, where consumption of straight phosphate and potash fertilisers is traditionally low.

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