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DTN Fertilizer Outlook

Wholesale Fertilizer Prices Expected to Remain Steady in Short Term

Yara and Mosaic agreed to roll over the Tampa, Florida, contract price for December to January at $250 per metric ton (mt) cost and freight (CFR). (Chart courtesy of Fertecon, Agribusiness Intelligence, IHS Markit)

The following is a breakdown of wholesale prices and trends of the various fertilizers in the month of December into the first week of January.

AMMONIA

International:

Global ammonia prices fell slightly in December due in part to the very weak phosphate market. However, some unexpected plant outages helped to keep supply tight and prevent prices from plummeting.

Yara and Mosaic agreed to roll over the Tampa, Florida, contract price for December to January at $250 per metric ton (mt) cost and freight (CFR). The CFR Far East price is now $295-$307, up from $285-$305 in November after dipping slightly in early December.

DAP and MAP prices are beginning to recover due to production curtailments, and buyers appear to be resurfacing, which could bode well for ammonia in the coming months. There could be additional support found in ammonia plant outages further keeping supply in check, as plants in Russia and Australia were reported down in early January.

The global outlook for ammonia is stable in the short term.

Domestic:

Domestic ammonia prices fell in December as prompt demand remained spotty at the end of harvest and the major producers began winter fill and spring prepay programs.

In December, Koch was the first to announce a prepay program at $390-$400 per short ton (t) FOB (free on board -- the buyer pays for transportation of the goods) in the central Corn Belt, followed by CF with pricing on par with Koch. While initial interest was limited, prices rose in mid-December as producers reportedly saw rising interest and began adding incentives such as discounting or waiving storage fees for spring purchases.

Eastern Corn Belt prices for prompt were at $330-$350/t FOB in early January, down from an average of $385 in early December. Western Corn Belt prices fell to $300-$330 prompt after the holidays. Ex-Oklahoma plant prices fell to $240 FOB from $300 in November. (Ex-plant price is the price at the factory and does not include any other charges, such as delivery or subsequent taxes.)

Ammonia carryover was high in the Northern Plains and Canada as another year of poor weather limited winter application, while traders in the Western Corn Belt and Southern Plains reported volumes moving close to an average year's sales well into December.

The short-term outlook for domestic ammonia is stable.

UREA

International:

Global urea rebounded at the end of the year with rumors and the eventual announcement of an India tender boosting market sentiment after prices were falling for much of December.

India announced a urea tender on Dec. 20, 2019, for shipment by Jan. 28, 2020. Reports of urea shortages in India for two weeks prior to the announcement revitalized markets globally, with NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) urea rising from the high-$190s FOB up to the mid-$210s in a single day.

In the end, India issued letters of intent for only 710,000 mt despite getting acceptance for 1.1 million metric tons (mmt) in counteroffers due to tight funding until the new fertilizer budget year begins in April.

Prices globally seemed to rise during the tender, with Brazil urea moving up to $240-$243 per mt CFR, up from $230-$232 in November.

Egyptian FOB prices are now up to $240-$245 FOB, up from lows last month at $221-$226.

The outlook for global urea is stable in the short term, but it will need to find support outside of India to stabilize in the medium term.

Domestic:

NOLA urea fell to a low of $197/t FOB before recovering to $222-$225 after the holidays with help from an India tender announcement on Dec. 20.

U.S. urea imports are behind last year, and strong demand is anticipated in the spring due to increased planted acres and the below-average fall ammonia season. However, expectations for corn planted acres have been scaled back in recent weeks to around 92.5 million to 93 million acres, compared to earlier expectations nearer 95 million. This would still represent a 2.5-million- to 3-million-acre increase over last year.

River terminal markets vary between $245-$255/t FOB, on par with last month. Ex-plant prices at Port Neal, Iowa, and Enid, Oklahoma, ended the month flat from late November at $250 and $255, respectively, after moving down $10-$20 early in December

The short-term outlook for domestic urea is stable.

UAN

Domestic UAN held steady at $135-$140/t NOLA FOB through December and into the new year amid low demand as the market waits for spring prepay announcements.

CF made further cuts to river terminal pricing for 32% at Cincinnati, Mt. Vernon and St. Louis down to $165/t FOB from $170-$175 in November. Ex-plant Oklahoma prices were down this month from $170-$175 in November to $160-$165.

East Coast UAN markets have been quiet throughout December, leaving the import price at $165 per mt CFR.

The outlook for domestic UAN is stable with potential for firming if prepay programs gain traction in the following weeks.

PHOSPHATES

International:

Global phosphate demand remained low in December; however, producers in Morocco and the U.S. announced production curtailments, which has relieved some of the pressure on the market, at least temporarily.

In early December, Morocco announced plans to curtail output of phosphate fertilizers by 500,000 tons between mid-December and the end of February. Not long after, Mosaic announced production will now be curtailed at its central Florida facilities with a 150,000 t/month reduction until further notice.

In terms of pricing, Brazil MAP was reported at $276-$285 per mt CFR, down from $292-$293 in November as domestic inventories remained plentiful.

The main question in the market now will be whether these cutbacks, equating to around 350,000 t/month through to the end of February, are enough to halt the decline. Given that several of the export reductions are finite, it may be unlikely that this will be enough to reverse the trend and prompt any sustained rally, but it should provide some much-needed support in the short term.

The outlook for international phosphates is stable to soft in the short term.

Domestic:

After falling in December, phosphate prices began to recover this month due to production cutbacks domestically and internationally. On Dec. 19, Mosaic announced production curtailments at its central Florida facilities by 150,000 mt per month, in addition to the 500,000-mt reduction it implemented in the second half of 2019 primarily in Louisiana.

NOLA DAP was $240-$250/t FOB in early January, compared to $240-$245 in November and its December low of $232-$240. NOLA MAP was last reported at $240, level with prices from late November but up from the December low of $235.

River terminal prices are around $265-$270/t FOB for DAP and $275-$285 for MAP, down from $275-$290 DAP and $280-$290 MAP last month.

The outlook for domestic phosphates is stable for the short term.

POTASH

Domestic potash markets were largely quiet in December with limited prompt activity as buyers wait for producers announce winter fill programs expected in January.

River terminal market prices fell by $5 from last month to $260-$270/t FOB while inland FOBs held steady around $275-$290. NOLA potash prices softened to $225-$227 from $235-$238 in November.

Local news reported on Dec. 18 that Nutrien will extend the turnaround at its Vanscoy, Saskatchewan, Canada, mine for five more weeks into late January. Workers have, however, returned to work at the Allan and Lanigan mines. Vanscoy, one of Nutrien's highest-cost facilities, is set to produce less than 2 mmt in 2020 after producing 2.24 mmt in 2018. Mosaic also announced that it will continue to run at lower rates across its mine after executing cutbacks of 600,000 mt in the second half of 2019.

High inventories carried over from poor spring applications last year drove wholesale potash demand down; however, subsequent production cuts in the fourth quarter of 2019 only slowed continued price erosion. Trends to watch this year include the potential impact of Mosaic's announcement of continued curtailments into Q1 and whether this will stabilize the NOLA barge market, along with reaction to an expected winter fill announcement from North American producers.

The short-term outlook for domestic potash is stable to soft.

**

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

(SK)

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