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Fertilizer outlook provided 

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

In 2022, the Russian invasion of Ukraine ultimately resulted in record high fertilizer prices, but over the past year these prices have eased. 

According to Farm Futures Grain Market Analyst Jacqueline Holland, producers can expect fertilizer prices to continue easing throughout the first six months of the new year due to Brazilian crop delays. 

“But, there could be some fertilizer outlook murkiness ahead as uncertainty in the Red Sea and China’s fertilizer export prospects could constrain global trade flows in coming months,” notes Holland in a Farm Progress article published on Dec. 22.

Good news from Brazil 

Holland reports good news has recently come out of Brazil, where dry weather has caused growers to slow purchases of fertilizer for the upcoming safrinha – second corn harvest – planting, which represents nearly 75 percent of Brazil’s national corn output, depending on the year.  

In a Dec. 18 Reuters article, Authors Rod Nickel, Ana Mano and Sourasis Bose point out Mosaic, a fertilizer producer based in the U.S., predicts Brazil’s second corn harvest will decline by 12 percent or 12.7 million metric tons, exceeding the Brazilian government’s original forecasts of an 11.1 million metric ton decline from last year. 

Guilherme Schmitz, market development director at Yara’s Brazil unit, told Reuters Brazilian farmers had only purchased 60 percent of their estimated fertilizer needs as of early December, opting to wait for higher crop prices and more favorable weather conditions before purchasing any more. 

In a normal year, Schmitz notes Brazilian growers have usually already booked 80 percent of their fertilizer supplies by this time. 

Holland and Reuters experts agree this downfall in sales from the world’s top corn exporting country could lead to lower fertilizer prices across the globe. 

Uncertainty in China

Data released by the National Bureau of Statistics of China on Dec. 18 shows China’s November fertilizer output for 2023 increased 11 percent from last year’s production to nearly five million metric tons. 

Despite this, many of the country’s previous buyers are turning to other suppliers for their fertilizer needs. 

“Asian fertilizer buyers are seeking alternatives to Chinese supplies on concerns the world’s top exporter has become an increasingly unreliable supplier after curbs on shipments to protect its domestic market,” explains Mei Mei Chu and Rajendra Jadhav in a separate Reuters article, published on Dec. 17. 

“China is the world’s biggest exporter of phosphate and a major supplier of urea, but since 2021, it has imposed measures including export quotas and lengthy inspection requirements on fertilizer ingredients to cool domestic prices,” Chu and Jadhav continue. 

They further note this led Chinese urea exports to plunge 24 percent to 2.8 million metric tons in 2022 and phosphate exports to decline heavily in recent months, leading to a squeeze in global supply and higher prices. 

In fact, according to data from the London Stock Exchange Group, prices for diammonium phosphate (DAP) in the U.S. have risen 26 percent to $617.30 per ton since mid-July.

Conflict in the Red Sea

Recent conflicts in the Red Sea could also create some uncertainty for the 2024 fertilizer outlook, according to multiple sources. 

Although nitrogen fertilizer products have continued to flow freely following maritime attacks by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis on the world’s main East to West trade route, risks still remain for urea, as 50 percent of the global supply is sourced from the Middle East and North Africa. 

“About 25 percent of ammonia and another 14 percent of global potash exports also originate from the region,” explains Holland. “Major buyers of the region’s fertilizer supplies include India, the European Union, Brazil and to a lesser extent, the U.S.”  

Holland further notes shipments of fertilizers headed for the U.S. have already rerouted around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, opting for a longer transport time to avoid conflicts on the Red Sea. 

“The longer shipping times, farther distances and increased risk profile spurred a rally in the energy markets during the first half of this week,” Holland says. “It is the first significant international supply chain disruption markets have experienced since the waning days of the COVID-19 pandemic and reinforces the significance of keeping these trade lanes safe and accessible.” 

She continues, “These higher costs could spill over to the U.S. energy market and subsequently lift fertilizer prices. Urea will likely be the first market to feel the most extreme impacts of these re-routes and will likely see an uptick in price through early 2024 if the conflict continues.” 

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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