Rabobank are bearish on the global fertiliser industry, according to its Q1 Fertiliser Quarterly report. In urea, a temporary imbalance between supply and demand could put further temporary upward pressure on prices.
Phosphate demand in Q1 2014 is finding support from speculative buying from the US and Brazil, with prices finding additional support from elevated sulphur prices. However, at the end of this quarter, prices for both phosphates and urea could fall to levels seen before the recent price spike, as supply will exceed demand. Potash prices are likely to remain stable at current levels, with overcapacity looming over the market and supply chains already appearing full.
· United States: While phosphates and urea prices appear to be heating up, the US market for potash is still slow. Buying is mostly limited by high inventory levels and US potash inventory levels do not yet reflect supply cuts by producers. US producers’ inventories only declined 1% in December to 2.99 million tonnes, down from 3.01 million tonnes in November, limiting the room for the supply pipeline to take in substantially more volumes in Q1.
· EU: European fertiliser markets appear relatively calm at the moment. The warm start to the year could shake things up by accelerating the timing of the spring application. Both the pending spring application and the current tight supply are driving nitrate prices higher and could continue to do so throughout the quarter.
· Brazil: Brazil's fertiliser industry is out-of-season, with fertiliser application for soybeans almost half a year away. High inventory levels are likely to reduce imports in Q1 2014, with the possible exception of potash.
· India: A good crop outlook and favourable agronomic conditions support fertiliser volumes ahead of the Kharif season. However, limited subsidy availability and uncertainty over 2014 Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) policies might cause buyers to hesitate.
· China: Additional volumes of urea and DAP from China are likely to enter the world market as a result of lower export tariffs. However, additional volumes are not likely to start making a significant impact in Q1. China’s potash imports dropped nearly 12% after steady demand and increased domestic supply.
· MENA and Ukraine: Newly struck gas price should incentivise Ukrainian production, but the start-up has been hampered by cold weather. Export issues in MENA have been resolved to some extent, but the start-up of production is slow and gas curtailment issues still plague producers.