DTN Fertilizer Outlook

US Wholesale Fertilizer Prices Fall in June, but Posed to Reset Higher Following Summer Fill

Urea prices at New Orleans, Louisiana, hit a year low at $410 per short ton as assessed by Fertecon in June, before demand for product to re-export imported urea to foreign buyers brought prices back up over $500 to end the month. (Chart courtesy of Fertecon, Agribusiness Intelligence, IHS Markit)

The following is a recap of fertilizer price trends and market developments for the month of June:

AMMONIA

Domestic:

Long-awaited summer-fill program announcements came in late June during an otherwise quiet period ahead over the past month.

Initial programs were confined to the western United States, where eastern Oklahoma plants were plants from Koch and CF that matched pricing in the range of $800-$825 per short ton (t) free-on-board (FOB -- sales price without transportation costs factored in). Plant offers in Nebraska were $825 and matched in Iowa at Port Neal. Offers seemed confined to these three states to begin with, as Eastern Corn Belt plants had yet to announce similar offers as of publication time.

This compares to summer-fill offers from last year at a range of $560-$585/t FOB Corn Belt, $540 in Kansas, $550-$565 Nebraska and $560 eastern Oklahoma plants. Several U.S. ammonia plants were also out of commission for turnaround when the announcements came in late June.

To contrast, prompt offers for Corn Belt ammonia were offered at $1,400-$1,500/t FOB and $1,200 FOB at eastern Oklahoma plants in May before falling to $1,300-$1,400 and $1,000/t, respectively, in the past month ahead of fill.

The ammonia fill offers in Oklahoma would indicate a value per unit of nitrogen equal to approximately $540/t urea or $420 for UAN. Now that the ammonia programs have come out, the nitrogen market will be looking squarely forward toward announcements regarding UAN fill offers.

In the short term, we expect U.S. ammonia prices to reset higher following summer fill and bullish going forward given tighter ammonia markets and higher natural gas prices outside the country as likely to support higher prices.

International:

Yara and Mosaic settled at $960 per metric ton (mt) cost-and-freight (CFR -- sales price per ton with transportation/shipping costs factored in) for July, down $40 on the $1,000 CFR Tampa agreed for June. A rollover or slight decrease (at least in comparison to the $425 drop seen for June) had been anticipated. The decrease, while expected, is at odds with sentiment in Europe, where the cost of gas has surged in the past few weeks.

The cost of natural gas in Europe shot higher after Gazprom, the largest gas supplier in both Russia and the rest of the world, announced that its flows to Europe would be reduced. European natural gas prices would go on to increase to around $40-$50/mmBtu in June and make much nitrogen production untenable in the region.

The lack of demand, with buyers even reluctantly receiving contract product, has led to a softening in prices. Baltic ammonia prices were assessed down over $100/mt from May to $815-$875 FOB. Ammonia in the Black Sea was lower to a lesser degree to $875-$925/mt FOB (compared to highs at $960 in May, priced on a nominal basis due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine).

The short-term outlook regarding global ammonia is mixed in the west due to less demand but skyrocketing natural gas prices and shuttering production in Europe, and soft in the east.

UREA

Domestic:

With most spring activity wrapped up ahead of Independence Day, many market participants took the opportunity for an extended holiday at the end of the month, and terminal buying as well as barge trading were sluggish. June, overall, however, proved to be bullish, as urea values hit new lows for 2022 before bouncing back higher.

Urea barges at New Orleans, Louisiana, (NOLA) were last assessed in June at $505-$530/t FOB for prompt through July shipment barges, up from its low of $410/t FOB during the month and down slightly from where it started the month at $510-$550 FOB. Barge trades had softened in June before demand for export sales supported higher trades, bringing values back above the $500/t mark but still down from the mid-to-high $500s in May.

River terminal urea fell to $550-$580, down about $100 from May values alongside the lower barge trades. Interior activity was much more subdued due to the greater length of supply in regions outside the U.S. Gulf.

In the short term, softer domestic demand in the U.S. predicts that barge trading, and followed by interior prices, will continue to trail developments in the global market. Later in the year, however, fundamentals are looking stronger for all nitrogen products as discussed in the ammonia sections above.

International:

On the heels of a stark increase in urea prices in late June, markets leveled off as participants stepped back ahead of an expected Indian tender release. The market was largely supplier driven in the lull before the next Indian tender, expected in late July.

Brazilian demand remained relatively muted with several cargoes purchased and storage space limited. Sales at the end of June were reported in the $640-$660/mt CFR range, down from $660-$680 in the month prior but up from sales at $625 in mid-June. Egypt continued to make steady sales and shipments last month, which saw prices rise to $725-$763/mt FOB compared to highs of $730 in May.

Higher gas prices in Europe along with supply uncertainty around production shutdowns could drive prices higher in upcoming weeks, as well as import demand, and keep prices rising higher. Our short-term global urea price outlook is uncertain around gas prices, with fewer Chinese exports expected to support prices ahead of the next Indian tender and upcoming demand from Brazil.

UAN

As urea prices continued their sharp descent in June, the outsized pricing of nitrates had to correct lower as well, and UAN prices in particular saw increased responsiveness to the urea price drops in recent weeks.

In early June, NOLA UAN barges were assessed at $575-$580/t FOB, down from the previous weekly assessment of $600-$620 on further discounts to UAN in the U.S. interior bringing down prices in other regions. Barge prices would drop sharply in mid-June to $480-$550/t FOB and eventually drift lower to $450-$480/t FOB.

River terminal offers fell to $500/t FOB with even lower prices available in slower markets, compared to $620-$640 in June when values began to decline. Supplies were said to be tighter in storage along the Mississippi River system relative to production sites to explain the price differential between regions.

Factory prices were also reduced from previous offers at $600-$625/t FOB down to $530-$540 at eastern Oklahoma plants.

The final antidumping duties by the U.S. Department of Commerce were announced June 21, with the investigation on schedule to conclude in early August along its current trajectory. The immediate impact on the market with this latest announcement is difficult to assess, save for the continued absence of Russian and Trinidad spot volumes to the U.S. over the course of the investigations.

UAN prices are expected to remain stable to lower in the short term until summer fill and its associated reset, after which point prices could regain some value. Further price movement will, of course, hinge on the antidumping/countervailing case final decisions and importers' responses.

PHOSPHATES

Domestic:

The U.S. phosphates market remained typically slow for the time of year, and generally saw little in the way of sales or price movement last month.

Our NOLA DAP barge assessment declined on the higher end from $750-$820/t FOB in early June to $765-$790/t FOB at the end of June. July barges were reported at $810 late in the month, in line with barge trades that Mosaic sold earlier in the month. MAP values were meanwhile assessed at $835-$845/t FOB NOLA at the end of June compared to the $780-$819/t FOB reported in early June.

River terminal phosphates were seeing little buy interest ahead of any more summer-fill announcements, after Simplot's earlier offers around $860 CFR MAP. Pricing fell between $805-$875/t FOB DAP and $845-$925/t MAP, down from reported previously at $880-$950/t FOB for DAP and $900-$950 for MAP.

The split between DAP and MAP was sustained with more export interest motivating stronger MAP trading values, which DAP would then follow later, as we see in early July. Values on both products and others continue to be supported on selling to foreign markets.

In the short term, we see U.S. phosphates pricing stable with potential to reset higher after any summer-fill programs later this season.

International:

Liquidity in the phosphates market has been thin through June, with price benchmarks declining in the west as buyers remain noticeable by their absence. There remains a "wait-and-see" approach while both crop and fertilizer prices are at historically high levels despite coming off ceilings.

MAP prices in Brazil have come under pressure, declining to $1,000-$1,050/mt CFR compared to $1,100 in May and highs at $1,300 in the year so far. Indian DAP prices have remained flat at $920/mt CFR where the government capped prices, but demand remains low during what is typically the peak shipping season.

The major talking point in June regarded China's plans for further quotas to be introduced on phosphates exports, with speculation of shipment limits ranging from 10% of their production up to 25% capacity. The result, however, has been that the market has come to a standstill amid the uncertain conditions in the past month.

Our outlook regarding global phosphate prices is under pressure in the west on slower demand, and uncertain in the east due to China's export situation.

POTASH

Fill buying interest continued to build for potash in June with the preplant period now entirely passed, but sellers have so far refrained from issuing any comprehensive summer programs.

NOLA potash barges were assessed from $770-$780/t FOB at the end of June, flat from May. A lower offer at $740 dried up midway through the month, but this would prove to be a continued indicator of market prices with offers in the $730s in early July. Product continued to be offered at a $770/t FOB NOLA equivalent along the Mississippi River during the entire month as well.

River terminal potash offers, however, declined by $5-$20/t to $750-$785/t as end-user demand remains extremely slow, even in comparison to the thinly traded barge market. June offers ranged from $780-$815/t FOB but moved lower with the cheaper barge product available.

Ahead of the aforementioned fill programs yet to be announced, the potash market remains quiet in the short term and seems more stable than in previous weeks. New price levels are not likely to shift significantly until after nitrogen price levels are more stable as well.

Russian potash has indeed resumed appearing at U.S. ports, and in early July, it became known that Belarusian potash could also begin flowing from Russian ports. In the short term, we expect potash prices in the U.S. to be somewhat stable to lower if Baltic Sea shipments increase through the rest of the year.

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