Bridge Collapse Could Affect UAN Market

UAN Fertilizer Market Could See Supply, Price Issues if Port of Baltimore Remains Closed Long

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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The Port of Baltimore is an important agricultural port for fertilizers. UAN and urea are the main nutrients being imported. (Chart courtesy of Josh Linville, StoneX Group Inc.)

OMAHA (DTN) -- The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore early Tuesday will influence the economy of the region but could also affect farmers' bottom line. The Port of Baltimore is significant for agricultural products, including farm equipment and fertilizer. It sees other fertilizers imported, but UAN is the main nutrient brought through the Port of Baltimore.

While no one knows what the exact impact will be on the UAN market, fertilizer analysts believe there could be some short-term supply and price issues.


The Port of Baltimore is an import terminal for UAN and takes in about 10% of the annual UAN imports to the United States; however, the port is not an important hub for any other types of fertilizer, according to CRU's Head of Fertilizers Chris Lawson. CRU is a global market analysis group based in London.

Lawson told DTN that in 2023 the Port of Baltimore processed 351,000 tons (318,422 metric tons) of imported UAN, ranking it as the sixth largest UAN import port in the U.S. that year. These tons originated solely from Russia, he said.

The situation at this important UAN port only adds to some of the issues UAN supply faces, Lawson said. Supply is already somewhat snug due to some other global supply issues during the past six months.

In addition, UAN imports have been down compared to the same time in 2023, he said.

"So, there is some added upside to UAN and urea pricing over the coming months," Lawson told DTN.

While this is not good news for the UAN supply and price in the short term, this new supply issue still does not appear to be a factor in the longer-term outlook for UAN.

"We still anticipate UAN prices will correct lower as the spring season ends," Lawson said.


Josh Linville, director of fertilizer for StoneX Group Inc., said the effect on the UAN market will likely depend on how long the port is closed. The bridge was located on the outermost crossing of Baltimore Harbor and will likely stall any traffic there until debris can be moved.

"Will investigators of the accident take a long time, which would hamper the reopening of the channel?" he asked. "Or will they streamline it and open up the port much sooner than expected?"

No one knows at this time, Linville added.

He said the accident could not have come at a worse time, given it is right before the spring planting season. There are ships loaded with nutrients for spring demand nearby or en route to Baltimore Harbor, he said.

Lawson said he knows of at least one ship that is currently bound from Baltimore. The Kocatepe is carrying UAN from the Russian port of Novorossiysk bound for Baltimore, he said.

Linville said a change in shipping plans will only slow the entire transportation process down.

"If those ships cannot unload, they now have to try to find alternatives, which likely means longer wait times (for UAN delivery) and higher freight costs," he said.


For more DTN coverage on the impact on agriculture from the bridge collapse in Baltimore, see the following articles:

"Tragedy Strikes Baltimore as Ship Crashes Into Francis Scott Key Bridge about the bridge collapse,"…

"Baltimore Bridge Collapse Could Affect Farm Machinery Shipments,"…

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Russ Quinn