Fertiliser use in 2024 will exceed last year, but farmers will be buying supplies more often and in smaller quantities, according to Liam Woulfe.

The managing director of Grassland Agro said that there had been “an absolute collapse in volumes” of fertiliser sold between January and March 2024, which is quarter two (Q2) of the fertiliser season.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) fertiliser database previously showed that sales of nitrogen (N) fertiliser in Q1 2024 (October 1 to December 31, 2023) were down 83% compared to the same period the previous year.

Woulfe told Agriland that he believes that fertiliser activity was around just 30-40% of what would normally be expected by the end of March.

“That’s not necessarily confirming a disaster, because we must also remember that oftentimes in the past that farmers would have material that would carry them through for many more months than just the month on hand,” he said.


Woulfe said that the high fertiliser prices seen over the past two years has led to “a lot of resistance” among farmers.

“Now, we have the added problem of cashflow and getting credit. There is a consciousness at farm level that they want to keep their credit nice and tight because the co-ops and merchants give a lot of credit,” he said.

He added that the cost of borrowing money for farmers is “much more expensive than normal”.

Despite this, the Grassland Agro managing director believes there will be “a big awakening” over the next month as farmers start to buy fertiliser as weather and ground conditions improve.

“I think what you’re going to have is a lot longer level of demand at somewhat lower level, but you will probably have a bigger consumption for the year,” he said.

Woulfe believes farmers will make “more frequent purchases this year, but the volume might be a little smaller per time”. He said this is a “natural and sensible thing to do”.

“Eventually, they’ll have the same amount as normal with less credit or the least amount of credit they can possibly cope with,” he said.

forage Fodder Support Scheme

As a lot of land could take another two weeks to dry out, Woulfe believes that first cut silage will be “a little bit late” this year, which will in turn impact fertiliser application.

Late April and May will be busier than normal as “we gradually catch up on the total consumption of fertiliser” by the end of the year, he said.

Woulfe expects overall average fertiliser prices to be relatively stable over the coming months.

“I don’t see buying fertiliser today as a big risk from our point of view with a view to having it for the months of May and June because I think the prices are going to be level,” he said.

He also said that an application for a derogation on hauliers’ driving hours has been lodged with the Department of Transport on behalf of the fertiliser and feed industry.

The National Fodder and Feed Security Committee (NFFSC) recently heard that transport is a big issue and is limiting deliveries for farmers.

“We must be very respectful of any use of that derogation from a safety point of view, that’s a very, very important thing and we’re conscious of that. The whole industry is part of it because it’s all part of a semi-emergency type of support,” he said.

Soil fertility

Woulfe believes that farmers have not being using enough phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), relative to their usage allowance.

“If we were going to make sure we get the best nitrogen use efficiency and indeed the phosphate use efficiency right, we do have to have the farms at the right level and they are slipping,” he said.

“I do feel that people are in the groove now of being more cognisant of soil optimisation, fertility optimisation.

“Now that fertiliser pricing is back to the normal levels that they would have experienced two or three years ago, I would say that there’ll be a bit more consciousness of using the fertiliser more prudently, more regularly and more to the plan that the farm requires,” he added.