Fertilizer Prices Pain Buyers

Fertilizer prices — unlike gasoline prices — aren’t going down, even as manufacturers cut production. What will that mean for your dealership and your grower-customers?

According to an article in the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, in the eyes of many growers and agricultural experts, fertilizer prices have seemed to defy the normal laws of economics. Despite high prices, makers of phosphate and potash say there’s an oversupply and earlier this month, Plymouth, MN-based Mosaic Co. said that it would scale back production, the second major company in recent weeks to announce production cuts.

Mosaic, the world’s largest producer of phosphate and potash, said it will cut phosphate production by 500,00 metric tons to 1 million metric tons over the next several months. That’s about 10 percent of the company’s annual production. Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, another large fertilizer company, in September idled about 30 percent of its production capacity because of a labor strike.

Both companies are dealing with their own financial issues, including share prices that have plummeted 50 percent or more since their peaks in mid-June. Mosaic, which is majority owned by agricultural giant Cargill Inc., closed Oct. 15 at $35.75. The stock traded at more than $160 in June.

As a result of curbed production, it’s not likely that fertilizer prices will decline anytime soon, agricultural analysts say. Mosaic, in fact, said that it expects the average price of phosphate to be around $1,020 to $1,080 a metric ton (about 2,200 pounds) — virtually unchanged from its current level — through the second quarter. Many growers buy their fertilizer in the fall and seed in the spring, which means they won’t be able to avoid the current high prices. (CropLife eNews note: Neither will retailers, who purchase those fertilizer inputs even earlier.)

Growers were told this year that rising fertilizer prices were the result of increased demand for grains, leaving some hopeful that fertilizer prices would fall once commodity prices dropped. But the agricultural commodities bubble has burst in recent weeks — corn closed Oct. 16 down 43 percent from June highs and soybeans fell to an 11-month low — amid an unfolding global economic slowdown; yet fertilizer prices have continued to surge upward.

Some growers have turned their anger toward local grain elevator operators, while others have begun to suspect the fertilizer companies of manipulating prices, said Bob Zelanka, executive director of the Minnesota Grain and Feed Association. “It certainly does have the feel like they’re controlling the supply to drive up price,” he said.

In a federal lawsuit filed last month in Minneapolis, Mosaic and seven other large fertilizer companies were accused of conspiring since 2004 to limit competition and drive up prices of potash, which have more than tripled over the past year. Mosaic has denied the allegations.

James Prokopanko, Mosaic CEO, said his company’s decision to cut production was a reaction to an excess inventory buildup — and was not designed to keep prices high. In the commodity price boom that occurred in the spring and summer, fertilizer distributors stockpiled huge amounts of phosphate, before prices rose even more. Many warehouses that store fertilizer nutrients are now almost full, and would have no place to store any increase in production, Prokopanko said. Once growers work through these excess supplies, Mosaic will increase production again.

An unusually wet spring across much of the nation added to the excess supply. Prokopanko said many growers planted their crops later than usual, and the late harvest has caused them to postpone fertilizer purchases — adding to the stockpiles.

“The whole system is backed up,” Prokopanko said. “We have no place to put this product we’re manufacturing.”

Mosaic is not the only agricultural company facing challenges. Excess supplies, sinking commodities prices, and fears of a widening credit crisis have sent shares of farm-related companies into a tailspin in recent weeks. Shares of Monsanto have fallen from more than $140 a share in June to $81.44 on Oct. 15, a decline of about 40 percent. Grain processors Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Bunge Ltd. have experienced similar declines.

David Swenson, an associate scientist in the Economics Department at Iowa State University, likened the run-up in agricultural stocks in the spring to the technology bubble of 2000 and 2001, when investors suddenly realized that demand would not grow indefinitely.

Leave a Reply

Latest News
EquipmentCase Unveils 2000 Series Early Riser Planter At NFMS
February 10, 2016
Case IH revealed the all-new 2000 Series Early Riser planter to media and attendees at the opening of the National Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsSyngenta: Keep Ag In Mind During Election Season
February 10, 2016
As presidential candidates stake out their 2016 election platforms and key priorities, growers and their business partners should seek opportunities Read More
Crop InputsMarrone Bio Innovations Submits New Bio-Fungicide For E…
February 9, 2016
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. (MBI) today announced that it has submitted a new biological fungicide (MBI-110) to EPA. The broad spectrum Read More
Crop InputsWeed Expert: Adding A Second Herbicide Not Always Easy
February 9, 2016
In my last post, I reviewed some recent research that suggests one of the best ways to delay the evolution Read More
Crop InputsGenetic Literacy Project: Farmers Need More Herbicide C…
February 9, 2016
There are two things that I think just about every weed scientist can agree on, writes Andrew Kniss for The Read More
HerbicidesWeed Expert Warns North Dakota Growers Of Coming Herbic…
February 9, 2016
Ford Baldwin painted a bleak picture of weed control at a recent workshop here exploring the future of ag production, Read More
HerbicidesWSSA Announces New, Updated Free Web Resources
February 9, 2016
Today the Weed Science Society of American (WSSA) announced that new and updated educational materials for both weed scientists and Read More
Soybean field
FungicidesFour Arysta Fungicide Formulations Given FIFRA Approval…
February 8, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the issuance of Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 2(ee) Recommendations for Read More
FungicidesAgri-Fos Systemic Fungicide Plus Receives EPA Registrat…
February 8, 2016
Vivid Life Sciences has announced the EPA registration of Agri-Fos Systemic Fungicide Plus, a highly concentrated active ingredient phosphite fungicide, Read More
Crop InputsBayer Contests EPA’s Decision On Valuable Insecticide F…
February 5, 2016
Crop Science, a division of Bayer, has announced it has refused a request by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to Read More
Wheat Field North Dakota
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Wins Seed Fraud Suit Against South Dakota Grow…
February 5, 2016
Syngenta has obtained a $25,000 settlement from Paul and John Mayclin, Mayclin Farms, Plankinton, SD, in response to their Plant Read More
ManagementOABA Annual Conference Wraps Up In Columbus
February 5, 2016
More than 300 Ohio AgriBusiness Association (OABA) members and industry professionals were on hand to engage in collaborative learning and Read More
Crop InputsBayer To Contest EPA Flubendiamide Decision
February 5, 2016
Crop Science, a division of Bayer, announced today it has refused a request by EPA to voluntarily cancel the uses Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechNot So Fast: ChemChina Syngenta Takeover Could Draw Nat…
February 5, 2016
State-owned China National Chemical Corp. (ChemChina), which plans to buy Swiss seeds and pesticide maker Syngenta, will promptly start preparations Read More
Rendering of Syngenta Seedcare Institute expansion
Seed/BiotechExpansion Of Syngenta’s North America Seedcare In…
February 4, 2016
As demand for seed treatment knowledge and products grows among farmers, retailers and others in the seed industry, Syngenta is Read More
Soybean Field
Industry NewsArysta LifeScience Strengthens Sales Team
February 4, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced three new personnel additions: Jake Cook and Peter White are Territory Sales Managers for Read More
Davor Pisk Syngenta COO
Crop InputsSyngenta COO: Why ChemChina Offer Beat Monsanto’s
February 4, 2016
Syngenta Chief Operating Officer Davor Pisk says he is confident the proposed acquisition by ChemChina will ultimately help preserve choice Read More
Young corn plants in soil
Crop InputsKoch Biological Solutions Invests In Pathway Biologic
February 4, 2016
An affiliate of Koch Biological Solutions, LLC has acquired a minority equity position in, and entered into collaboration with, Pathway Read More