Overview

The ease of urea availability east and west of Suez has shaped the current trade flows of this key nitrogen fertilizer. Despite challenges posed by energy prices and military conflicts, key import markets such as India, Australia, and Latin America remain robust. But structural oversupply and the role of China as a swing exporter have led to price volatility as this fast-moving market seeks equilibrium, more so during seasonally high-demand periods. 
 
Our extensive nitrogen coverage includes prilled and granular urea, UAN, ammonium nitrate, and ammonium sulphate. Argus has many decades of experience covering the nitrogen market and incorporates our multi-commodity market expertise in key areas including ammonia and natural gas to provide the full market narrative.

Argus support market participants with:

  • Daily and weekly nitrogen price assessments, proprietary data and market commentary 
  • Short and medium to long-term forecasting, modelling and analysis of urea prices, supply, demand, trade and projects
  • Bespoke consulting project support

Latest nitrogen news

Browse the latest market moving news on the global nitrogen industry.

Latest nitrogen news

India’s urea stocks climb by 17pc in March


04/04/24
Latest nitrogen news
04/04/24

India’s urea stocks climb by 17pc in March

Amsterdam, 4 April (Argus) — Indian urea inventories rose to around 8.8mn t by the end of last month, up by 17pc from 7.5mn t at the end of February, as output and imports rose to offset stable sales. Production hit 2.49mn t last month, up from 2.38mn t a year earlier, provisional official data show. It also marks a rise from 2.33mn t in February, which typically sees lower levels during the turnaround season. Sales in March were largely stable from a year earlier at 1.57mn t. The rise in production combined with imports of 375,000t to push urea stocks up to around 8.8mn t, having started March at 7.5mn t (see chart) . And inventories are set to receive further support in the coming months with importer and supplier Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers' (RCF) conclusion of its 27 March tender , buying 724,000t of urea for shipment from load ports up to 20 May. Indian urea production surges in 2023-24 The higher output lifted total fertilizer production to 31.3mn t between April 2023 and March 2024, up by 9.8pc from 28.5mn t in the 2022-23 fertilizer year. The rise in domestic production can be largely attributed to supplier Hindustan Urvarak and Rasayan (Hurl), which tripled urea output in 2023-24 to 3.55mn t, as it ramped up production at its three sites. Hurl produced 1.21mn t of urea in the 2022-23 fertilizer year, according to its last annual report. Fellow producer Matix has also increased output at its 1.3mn t/yr Panagarh plant since early 2022. Cumulative urea sales across the country were 35.8mn t in 2023-24, up slightly from 35.7mn t. Inventories climbed by a net 2.6mn t in 2023-24, marking the highest in recent years and dwarfing an increase of 405,000t in 2022-23, largely driven by the rise in domestic output. By Harry Minihan India's monthly net change in urea stocks (mn t) Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Latest nitrogen news

Bridge collapse disrupts Baltimore UAN imports


27/03/24
Latest nitrogen news
27/03/24

Bridge collapse disrupts Baltimore UAN imports

Houston, 27 March (Argus) — UAN distributors near Baltimore, Maryland, are holding off from issuing new offers until it becomes clearer when the port there will reopen following its closure from a major bridge collapse. There is limited spot availability for UAN in Baltimore, market participants told Argus . At least one UAN vessel was due to arrive in Baltimore in April. Vessels delivering to Baltimore could be diverted elsewhere, possibly to ports like Chesapeake, Virginia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or Wilmington, North Carolina. The east coast terminal UAN price — encompassing the US eastern seaboard — has risen by 13pc since the beginning of the year because of seasonal demand to $300/st fot on 29 February, where the price has held since. When offers for UAN in Baltimore do re-surface they will likely do so at higher levels because of restricted supply to the port. By Calder Jett Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Latest nitrogen news

Yara curtails 2023 European ammonia production by 19pc


25/03/24
Latest nitrogen news
25/03/24

Yara curtails 2023 European ammonia production by 19pc

London, 25 March (Argus) — Europe's largest fertiliser producer Yara operated its European ammonia plants at nearly a fifth below their capacity last year, despite its weighted-average gas costs more than halving compared with 2022. Yara curtailed 19pc — or 890,000t — of its ammonia production capacity last year, while it curbed its finished fertiliser production capacity by 15pc, it said in its annual report released last week. This was distinctly below ammonia curtailments of 35pc in 2022 , when the firm insisted it "will not produce or sell at negative margins". Yara's European plants have an average efficiency rate of roughly 36mn Btu per tonne of ammonia produced, according to Argus Consulting estimates, which implies that 890,000t of lost ammonia production is equivalent to about 786mn m³ of gas demand. That said, the firm prioritised production at its most efficient plants such as Sluiskil in the Netherlands and Brunsbuttel in Germany, from which it exported to its less efficient sites where production ran at lower rates. Yara curtailed nearly a fifth of its ammonia capacity, despite its European weighted-average gas cost more than halving to $14.90/mn Btu from $31.80/mn Btu in 2022. Prices were still much higher than in previous years — they were lowest at just $3.60/mn Btu in 2020 ( see prices graph ). Yara's global ammonia production edged down to 6.39mn t in 2023, from 6.51mn t in 2022. And it stayed well below a 2019 peak of 8.48mn t in 2019, suggesting the firm has moved more towards imports to bolster its own production, rather than prioritising strong run rates at its facilities. Yara operates in a "world of volatility" because of military conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, which affect global supply chains, the firm said. "Strengthened operational flexibility" remains a priority in this context, it said. The firm has warned repeatedly of geopolitical risks associated with an influx of Russian fertiliser output fed by gas that is much cheaper than in Europe. "Vladimir Putin is using fertilisers as a weapon of war," Yara said. "We're sleepwalking into repeating the same mistake with fertilisers as we did with Russian energy imports," Yara's chief executive Svein Tore Holsether told Argus in February . But Yara expects higher European production in 2024, as gas prices have continued to come down while fertilisers prices have held firm. Assuming stable gas purchases, gas costs in the first and second quarters could be $320mn and $100mn lower, respectively, than in the same period last year, Yara said in February . The firm suggested its European ammonia assets could run at or above 90pc of capacity. In regions with "efficient gas markets", Yara seeks exposure to spot market prices "unless exceptional market circumstances clearly give reason for deviation", it said. But in regions without such "efficient" gas markets, the firm prefers entering longer-term contracts "if favourable gas prices are obtainable". Yara has a "high" risk appetite for exposure to gas prices because securing access to, and stable supply of, favourably-priced gas is "imperative to our operations and competitiveness", the firm said. "All of our European gas contracts are hub-based, and we are well positioned to cover the risk of spot exposure," Yara said. At the same time, up to 70pc of its European plants can operate on imported ammonia. Yara's largest gas suppliers are Engie, Shell, Equinor, India's Gail, and Trinidad and Tobago's national gas company, it said. The firm consumed just under 6bn m³ globally in 2023, down from a peak of 6.87bn m³ in 2019 ( see gas consumption graph ). By Brendan A'Hearn Yara weighted-average gas costs $/mn Btu Yara global gas consumption bn m³ Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Latest nitrogen news

Fertilizer affordability weakens in 1Q24 on higher N, P


25/03/24
Latest nitrogen news
25/03/24

Fertilizer affordability weakens in 1Q24 on higher N, P

London, 25 March (Argus) — Global fertilizer product affordability trended lower through most of the first quarter of 2024, as crop prices slid on higher expected global supplies, while nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers remained at high levels before coming under pressure in the second half of March. The decline in nutrient affordability this quarter comes at a time when farmers start preparing for the spring fertilizer application season in the northern hemisphere. The Argus fertilizer affordability index ⁠— a global assessment calculated using the ratio between the fertilizer and crop price index ⁠— fell to the lowest quarterly average since the fourth quarter of 2022. Nutrient affordability weakened by 10 percentage points since the start of the year, to 1.03 points in March from 1.13 points in January. An affordability index above 1 indicates that fertilizers are more affordable compared with the base year, which was set in 2004, while below 1 indicates lower nutrient affordability. High urea, phosphate prices weigh on affordability The fertilizer index ⁠— which includes international prices for urea, DAP and potash adjusted by global usage ⁠— has reached the highest quarter average since 1Q23, owing to high urea and phosphate prices. Urea prices surged through the second half of January, following a bearish end to 2023, initially spurred by short-covering and fresh demand from European markets in the wake of an Indian purchase tender. Levels out of Egypt jumped by around $70/t through the month to over $400/t fob for European markets. Prices remained firm through the first half of February, supported by strong demand from Australia and Thailand, as importers warily eyed rising prices. The supply-demand balance east of Suez was also tightened by plant closures in Iran and Malaysia, as well as restrictions on Indonesian shipments prior to the elections on 14 February. But a return of urea supply east of Suez, a slowdown in buying and weaker gas prices pressured urea levels through the second half of February and into March across most markets, apart from the US, resulting in prices to weaken on the month. For phosphates, DAP/MAP prices remained high on tight supply through the first quarter, while China refrained from exporting product. Also strong demand in Australia and the US diverted cargoes away from other markets. Limited MAP supply and emerging demand encouraged suppliers to raise their offers in March in the west. Meanwhile, in the east, the imminent reopening of China is adding to expected supply, and has turned DAP markets bearish. Traders have started to short Chinese DAP with India's RCF awarding its latest buy tender at $575/t cfr — $20/t lower than the last reported cfr sale into India. But for now, prices remain far above the breakeven price of around $509/t cfr, given the reduced Indian DAP subsidy of 21,676 rupees/t for the April-September kharif season. Crop prices under pressure High fertilizer prices so far in the quarter coincided with a decline in grain prices for wheat, corn and soybeans owing to expectations of higher global supplies in the coming season. This has led to the crop price index — the key element of the affordability index — falling to its lowest point since the fourth quarter of 2020. Global wheat output is forecast to reach 799mn t in the 2024-25 season (July-June), according to the International Grains Council (IGC), up by 10mn t from the IGC's 2023-24 projection, but consumption is expected to be flat on the previous season. Global corn production is also expected to rise in 2024-25, up by 6mn t on the year to 1.233bn t in 2024-25. And global corn consumption is forecast to increase, up by 18mn t to 1.23bn t in 2024-25. Carryover corn stocks for major exporters are set to increase by 7mn t on the year to 78mn t, according to the IGC. As for soybeans, the IGC forecasts global production to rise by 23mn t to 413mn t in 2024-25 because of larger acreages and improved yields. Global consumption is projected to rise by 21mn t on the year to 404mn t, according to the IGC. The council also expects higher carryover stocks at 75mn t in 2024-25, up by 9mn t on the year. By Lili Minton, Harry Minihan and Tom Hampson Global Fertilizer Affordability Index (points) Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Latest events