with Robin Boom
Agronomic Advisory Services
There has been a significant rise in fertiliser prices the past six months, partly due to world demand, but also due to increased shipping costs and port charges which have come about largely as a result of Covid-19 slowing down the unloading and reloading of ships.
One fertiliser importer I recently talked to had delays of a month as the ships which would normally load and offload at a port like Singapore in a couple of days en route to New Zealand, are now having to wait up to three weeks to get unloaded and reloaded. This has put pressure on the supply of products, and farmers having to wait several weeks due to shipping delays for products to arrive in the country. I know of two importers who have shipments of triple super which are presold while on the water.
At the moment the price of triple super appears to be linked to the price of single superphosphate for both big co-ops who have been selling it for $690/tonne the past year, whereas DAP (Di Ammonium Phosphate) has jumped up from $750/tonne to $890/tonne over this same period. Private companies are selling both triple super and DAP for around $100/tonne cheaper than the co-ops. Sulphur 90 products have risen from $550/tonne last year to $600/tonne from the co-ops, and again private importers are over $100/tonne cheaper than the co-ops.
Potassium chloride has risen marginally from $660/tonne to $690/tonne from the co-ops, with private importers selling it for around $50/tonne cheaper. Locally manufactured single superphosphate on the other hand has hardly risen at all, moving from $295/tonne up to $310/tonne the past 12 months. Urea however has risen from $568/tonne to $634/tonne.
RPR (Reactive Phosphate Rock) fertilisers have in some cases stayed the same, whereas other importers have lifted the price up to $40/tonne more than this time last year. Last year Ballance had a very good deal on RPR selling it for $265/tonne, compared to other companies who were selling it in the $320-380/tonne bracket, but since last winter Ballance have not been in the RPR market. Magnesium prices however have largely remained the same with the co-ops compared to a year ago, with private importers being around $70/tonne cheaper.
Last year there were a couple of private importers selling MAP (Mono Ammonium Phosphate) for around $200/tonne cheaper than the co-ops, but with a six-fold increase in shipping costs for containers out of China, it may not be a goer this year. Sulphate of Ammonia has only risen around $10/tonne compared to last year and locally manufactured Phased N has gone up $20/tonne due to the increase in prices for urea and elemental sulphur.
My take on best value phosphate products at the moment, is that if applying by truck, then single superphosphate products from one of the co-ops are competitively priced once rebates are factored in, but if applying by plane of helicopter, then high analysis products like Triple Super or DAP/MAP from one of several private importers is currently better value. If you already have good phosphate levels, then don’t apply any more and work on other elements which are limiting production. Phosphorus is the most expensive element to correct in the soil, and if other elements are limiting productivity, then focus on these, including lime.
Beware of claims made my manufacturers of expensive granulated lime products that light rates of these are equivalent to ten times normal ag lime. This is nonsense. They are also up to 10 times more expensive per unit of calcium carbonate, and it is the cost per unit of calcium carbonate which is the main thing to consider. The ballistics of granulated limes are better and being ground finely may speed the working of the lime, but over time normal ag lime works a treat. On May 11-12, the New Zealand Grassland Association is holding a symposium on Resilient Pastures at Karapiro, at which I will be presenting a paper on the application of lime on hill country based on a four-year trial I conducted on a farm near Te Akau. In total there are about fifty presenters discussing their findings over this two day event. Early-bird discounts apply if registered before 16th April. To register, go to: www.grassland.org.nz
Robin Boom 027 444 8764