Potash fertilizer producers eye surging demand

Reuters – Global sales of potash fertilizer look to hit record highs this year, helped by a spike in crop prices, but cautious North American producers are keeping a lid on supplies.

Canada’s Nutrien and U.S.-based Mosaic have benefited as crop prices climbed to multi-year highs, helped by strong Chinese demand.

“We believe there is a cyclical recovery in agriculture underway,” Nutrien chief executive Chuck Magro said on a conference call.

As crop prices rise, farmers have greater incentive to apply fertilizer and maximize yields.

Nutrien predicts the largest U.S. corn plantings in five years, of 91 million to 93 million acres (36.8 million to 37.6 million hectares), along with greater U.S. soybean and Canadian canola plantings.

Global potash demand this year looks to reach a record-high 68 million to 70 million tonnes, Nutrien, the world’s largest producer by capacity, said.

Still, Mosaic has no plans to restart its idled Colonsay, Saskatchewan mine, CEO Joc O’Rourke said.

“We would consider bringing it back if the long-term economics and the demand were there to justify it,” he told analysts.

Mosaic’s Saskatchewan K3 mine is scheduled to more than double output this year after a multi-year expansion project.

Nutrien has said it could restore six million tonnes of annual idle capacity if prices warrant the move, but guided to flat potash sales volumes this year.

If global demand nears the top end of Nutrien’s forecast, the company expects to raise production and sales above its 12.5-million- to 13-million-tonne guidance, Ken Seitz, executive vice-president of potash, told Reuters in a statement.

Swiss-based EuroChem is boosting output, but has run into delays, according to BMO.

Rising potash demand comes as BHP Group is expected to make an investment decision soon on completing its Jansen, Saskatchewan mine.

While potash prices are up in the United States and Brazil, state producer Belaruskali recently settled China and India supply contracts at prices that Nutrien called below market value.

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