Global Phosphate and Potash Outlook 2019
Phosphate and potash prices continued to march higher in 2018, writes Andy Jung on CropLife.com, although phosphate prices experienced some weakness late in the year on typical seasonal demand softness. Several overarching factors that had boosted prices in 2017 remained in play last year. Global shipments of the leading P&K products once again reached record levels, much-anticipated greenfield projects delivered fewer tons than advertised, and elevated raw materials costs provided an additional push to phosphate prices.
While price momentum stalled in Q4 2018 (and, in the case of phosphate, reversed course), the question remains as to whether last year’s macro trends that resulted in higher prices will persist in 2019, or have fundamentals changed? Our take is that the supply and demand situation continues to point toward a relatively balanced market — in other words one in which P&K prices hold 2018’s gains, with limited risk to both the upside or downside other than typical seasonal fluctuations. Several swing factors, such as where agricultural commodity prices settle, how quickly new capacity ramps up, and Chinese phosphate export availability, will ultimately shape the outlook.
Wholesale granular muriate of potash (MOP) prices started 2018 by trading at about $235 per ton free on board (fob) New Orleans (NOLA) barge and moved continually higher before closing the year a bit shy of $300 per ton. While this circa $65 per ton increase appears impressive, potash prices in the U.S. continued to lag behind other global benchmarks. For example, the price of MOP delivered to Brazil ended the year at about $320 per ton after posting a similar increase over the course of the year.