with Robin Boom
Agronomic Advisory Services
In the past month both Ballance and Ravensdown have increased their imported fertiliser prices as world prices go up for phosphorus products in particular.
Di Ammonium Phosphate (DAP) is now $100/tonne more expensive than it was in the spring, and potash and sulphur are $30/tonne more expensive, whereas single superphosphate prices have only risen marginally by $10/tonne and Triple Super remains the same.
Some of the private importers now have DAP and Triple Super up to $150/tonne cheaper than these two big co-ops, and potassium and sulphur can be more than $50/tonne cheaper, but their stocks are limited.
Reactive Phosphate Rock fertilisers remain similar to last year and both co-ops are this autumn selling Sechura RPR blended with Moroccan rocks, although the Moroccan component in these blends by itself does not qualify as a RPR, and therefore this portion will be a lot slower working, possibly taking decades to fully work.
These unreactive rocks are added because the source of Sechura the co-ops import has cadmium levels above the 280 ppm Cd per kg P limit set by the industry, so blending in the Moroccan rocks with Sechura (Peruvian) rock, the overall cadmium level drops below this limit.
However, for my clients who use RPR fertilisers I am not convinced of the agronomic merit of this blend and am instead recommending a lower cadmium Sechura imported by a private company or a granular RPR imported from Egypt which have good citric solubilities.
This time last year I had a lot of my sheep and beef clients try a high analysis feed grade, Dicalcium Phosphate (16 per cent P) and DAP which was very competitively priced. The blend was called Zeaphos (eight per cent N, 18 P) and was sold by Zealyn, a Timaru-based company. Unfortunately they decided to pull out of the North Island. Farmers who used this blend, or even the straight Dicalcium Phosphate, were very impressed with the response.
One of the reasons Zealyn stopped importing this is the Chinese manufacturer increased the price by $50US/tonne. However, there are at least two other importers who are bringing in high analysis feed grade dicalcium phosphate fertilisers into the North Island.
These are different to locally-made dicalcium phosphate products which are blends of lime and superphosphates which are reverted using water to create a chemical reaction between the acid superphosphate and alkaline lime, left to cook up, harden, and then screened.
The imported high analysis products have next to no cadmium or fluoride, which are contaminants which come from superphosphate, so they are a lot safer in terms of ‘phosphate poisoning’ risks with livestock.
There has also been a big increase in the cost of some minerals added to fertiliser mixes. Cobalt has almost doubled in price compared to last year, and zinc has also gone up over 50 per cent. Some magnesium products have also gone up, and a lot of this increase is due to the Chinese government shutting down some zinc and magnesium factories because of pollution issues. This increase is also seen in animal health-grade magnesium and zinc products. The cobalt price lift is due to demand for its use in batteries.
Lambs worth more
On the positive side, milk prices and beef prices seem to be holding, and lambs are worth an extra $20 more than they were a year ago. January and February rainfall has meant plenty of feed and works cannot justify dropping their schedule prices when there is lots of grass around as farmers will hang onto stock and fatten them more.
For the dairy farmers, good summer and autumn growth will be a bonus after a difficult spring. Maize crops around the country are looking fantastic in most places after being generally two weeks later than normal plantings, but with the summer heat and rainfall they have bolted away.
When it comes to fertiliser options, there can be some big savings shopping around. Recently I was contacted by a farmer who has been using a particular rep/advisor who was interested in what I could do for them. When they found out that I could get the same fertiliser blend for $100/tonne cheaper than what they had been paying for it they were delighted.
This seems to be a common problem when a farmer only listens to the advice of one particular company selling advice or products. As I don’t work for any particular company I can line up the particular deficiencies with whichever companies can provide the required nutrients at the best price.
With the co-ops, the end of year rebates have been a good reason to stick with them, but the past two years with much cheaper prices from some importers, this has all changed.
Robin Boom CPAg, Member of the Institute of Professional Soil Scientists, phone: 027 4448764.