Manufacturing issues and tight spring put pressure on fertiliser supplies

Manufacturing issues in plants across Europe and a tight spring for field operations have left supplies of some fertilisers very scarce on the ground.

Sulphate of potash (SOP) as well as CAN-based products are the most affected. Paddy Casey, President of the Fertiliser Association of Ireland, speaking to Agriland today said: “There was a tightness of a lot of fertiliser products this spring at times across Europe. Adequate supplies of some products just didn’t come into the country. It wasn’t available. Supply just wasn’t there on the continent and lot of product had been rationed.”

Casey noted: “It is really a manufacturing issue. It would have been brought in but the supply wasn’t there. It’s important to remember that the business of manufacturing fertiliser has not been lucrative in recent years. This has led to underinvestment and scaling back in many plants across Europe. When the pressure came on this year some plants went down and others were not able to deal with demand.”

Casey was keen to highlight the huge difference between spring 2014 and spring 2013 in terms of the weather conditions. “March wasn’t wonderful. Everyone in the industry knew that stocks were going to be tight in March due to the manufacturing issues in Europe. But actually there was little spread in March and there were no issues really.

“But that first week of April really saw the fertiliser business take off. The taps really opened. Field work really got going in all the sectors and that put its own pressure on supply. It was such a tight spring in terms of fertiliser spreading time wise.

“We would have saw a lot of farmers taking advantage of early deals this spring. There was a lot of stock gone out on farms early in the year sitting in farm yards.”

Casey said the volume of fertiliser used on Irish farms should hold on last year’s levels. “The stock is there, the corn is in the ground. But it’s difficult to know at the same time. The weather is playing an increasing role in the industry.

“There is no doubt fodder is not as big an issue this summer. Most farmers have surplus silage in the yards. So there won’t be as much pressure to get a second cut as there was last year.

“But guys are also trying to cut costs. Fertiliser is not cheap anymore. Although we would see it as very cheap if farmers are producing off grass.”

Casey also noted that following the successful launch of the ‘Online P and K calculator’ in 2013, the Fertilizer Association of Ireland has launched a Smart Phone App version the simple and user-friendly P and K calculator for grassland and tillage crops. The App is freely available to download, and will provide a P and K recommendation for a grass or tillage crop in seconds.

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