The following is a breakdown of wholesale prices and trends of the various fertilizers in the month of June and into the first two weeks of July.
Anhydrous ammonia sales slowed down after the direct-application season ended earlier this year and stayed that way until early June when summer fill began. Initial reporting indicated Koch was offering product as low as $200 per short ton (t) free on board (FOB) at its ammonia plant in Enid, Oklahoma. Corn Belt ammonia fill prices west of the Mississippi River were announced at $265-$290/t FOB in the west but slower to fall in the Eastern Belt as growing season progress in the region lagged behind the west.
At the end of June, Eastern Corn Belt ammonia prices closed the month at $285-$295/t FOB, down from $375-$410 in May. Western Corn Belt prices finished June at $265-$290/t compared to $310-$340 the month before. Product sold direct from the factory level (ex-plant) in eastern Oklahoma fell from $260-$270/t in May to $200-$210 following fill announcements early in June and continued throughout the month.
Buyers appeared to have a positive response to the fill, especially when compared to urea and phosphates, which both struggled to generate much interest in locking in June sales for next year's fertilizer needs.
Summer fill is poised to wrap up in the coming weeks, and with it the rest of the ammonia market for some time. The distinct lack of fall prepay sales reported compared to previous years shows reluctance to lock in future needs in an uncertain time. With tanks now filled, our outlook for U.S. ammonia prices is soft until movement resumes in the fall.
The Tampa contract price agreed between Yara and Mosaic for July fell $13 to $205 per metric ton (mt) cost and freight (CFR). The end of the U.S. ammonia application season and a soft European market where natural gas prices are very low all contributed to the lower price. A reduction had been expected, and some further downward corrections for August are still possible.
The world ammonia market is continuing to recover in varying degrees from major disruptions following the COVID-19 outbreak, with market conditions split between the Eastern and Western hemispheres. The Baltic contract price ended June at $178-$181/mt FOB, down over $20 from $200-$203 in May. However, the spot price in Yuzhnyy, Ukraine, was largely stable at $180-$185/mt in June, compared to $180-$182 one month earlier.
Although Indian demand is good and China is recovering, it is difficult to see how prices could hold with a demand-driven push, and the market, it seems, needs further supply cuts in order to stop further price erosion. The outlook in global ammonia is firm in the east but still soft in the west.
At the beginning of June, topdress and sidedress fertilizer applications began to take off in the Western Corn Belt and in the Northern Plains in markets that began the season on schedule. Prices tumbled in May on high availability and little demand, but June saw prices rise again in response to renewed demand.
Urea barge prices at New Orleans, Louisiana, (NOLA) rose from a low of $174/t FOB in May to $194-203 at the end June. Prices rose steadily alongside an India tender announcement and would continue to do so afterward. Foreign vessels arriving with imported urea slowed down in June with the major application period behind us and likely contributed to higher prices.
Together with market confidence that urea prices had hit a bottom in May and would go no lower, values continued to firm into early July. However, there has been little interest reported in buying urea fill tons so far. The global urea market is showing signs of softening as well. All things considered, the outlook on U.S. urea prices is flat for July.
June saw another highly anticipated India tender announced, expected to be a bellwether on the broader picture of the market to come. However, on lower participation than expected from China and Ukraine, India issued letters of acceptance on only 627,000 metric tons of urea, well below expectations of demand there.
Before the conclusion of the tender, however, the global market had a much firmer tone in June with solid demand from seasonally large buyers. Egyptian urea prices rose to $239-$241 FOB compared to $215-$220 in May. Brazil also saw firming to $236-$245 CFR, up from $208-$213 in the month prior. This rise in prices outside of the U.S. also likely drew export tons away and helped domestic prices to rise on shorter supply.
India had a strong start to their season earlier in the year and is expected to tender again before summer's end to meet high domestic demand. However, there is little strength in the global market with pressure in the Western Hemisphere where the U.S. and Europe are seasonally quiet. The outlook on the global ammonia market is flat for July.
To the surprise of some in the market, CF announced its summer fill program just before the end of the month on June 24. Others had expected the announcement to follow in late July, after the date set for the Southwest Fertilizer Conference before it was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Initial summer fill prices were reported at $150-$152/t FOB river terminal in Cincinnati, St. Louis and Mt. Vernon, which is $25 lower than last year at $175. The market seemed to accept the price, and sales appeared strong through the end of the month in Northern markets but less impressive in the Midsouth. River terminal prices would end June $5 lower at $147-$152/t FOB, down from $165-$180 in May.
NOLA barge prices for UAN saw few transactions with much of the trading focus at the terminal level for fill. Yet, with lower terminal prices, others had to follow suit, and barges were assessed at $120-$125/t FOB at the end of June, down from $135-$139 in May.
Some in the market thought that UAN fill would continue for some time, in order for major U.S. producers to keep prices low and keep exports from Russia out of the country. With tanks filling up with summer fill tons and sidedress applications nearing completion, the market will likely begin to quiet down until next application season. Following the price reset to higher levels once fill sales are over, the outlook on UAN is stable to soft.
The U.S. phosphates market was beginning to firm on tighter supply in June with fewer imports from Morocco entering the U.S. However, at the end of the month, Mosaic filed petitions with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission requesting the initiation of countervailing duty investigations into the import of phosphate fertilizers from Morocco and Russia.
As the largest U.S. producer of phosphate fertilizers, Mosaic said in its news release that "large volumes of unfairly subsidized imports from Morocco and Russia are causing significant harm to Mosaic's operations" and the "duties we are seeking will help ensure that North American farmers can rely on the American phosphate industry to supply critical fertilizers for the long term."
Following the release, phosphate physical tons, along with futures prices, rose significantly. Whereas NOLA DAP barges ended May at $265-$272/ton FOB and continued to trend downward, DAP and MAP barge prices rose back to $274/ton FOB to end June before Mosaic's announcement. Phosphate barge prices then proceeded to gain another $20 into the first week of July alone.
Along main Mississippi River terminals, phosphate prices rose to $295-$310/ton FOB DAP and MAP, a $5 increase from May.
A decision on whether the case will proceed is expected in mid-August. In the meantime, the outlook on U.S. phosphates is stable to firm for July.
DAP and MAP prices continued to rise in June in western countries and were stable to firm in the Eastern Hemisphere. Supply is especially tight for South American importers looking to bring in foreign product and, like in India, prices are higher as a result on shorter availability. Demand has been robust in India, which has led to higher prices there.
Specifically, the Brazil MAP price gained $20-$25 from May to $320-$325/mt CFR. The India DAP price ended June at $317-$327, an increase of $2-$12 on the month prior. Indian sales data showed exceptionally strong movement of DAP through April-June this year.
Higher prices on the world stage into Q3 hinge on the intensity and timing of additional demand in these markets and to what degree they may be marred by the spread of COVID-19. The outlook on the international phosphate market is stable to firm in the short term.
After much anticipation and a slow start to the year thus far, potash fill was announced in the middle of June at a price of $240-$250/t FOB. This is compared to $285/t for fill last year and was roughly in line with or slightly below current market values and, confusingly enough, higher than some prices in Northern markets.
Eventually, prices would settle lower at $225-$240/t FOB river terminal, and at this price lots of sales were reported as formerly long-held inventories finally saw application this spring were then replenished. Barge prices at NOLA also fell alongside other markets to $195-$200/t FOB, down $5 from the previous month with even lower prices rumored.
In early July, fill prices reset to higher levels in Canada but held out at lower values along U.S. river terminals. With most buying out of the way until the fall season, the market is set to quiet down for the remainder of the summer. The outlook on potash is stable to soft following the eventual price reset once summer fill is complete.
Editor's Note: This information was supplied courtesy of Fertecon, Agribusiness Intelligence, IHS Markit.
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