By Ken Johnson
DTN Fertilizer Columnist
World ammonia prices moved lower in January. Export tons from Yuzhnyy, FSU, traded at $460 to $500 per metric ton early and fell to $400 to $410 late. (All prices in this column are wholesale.) Trade was quiet for most of the month, and at month's end, market sentiment continued to be bearish. There are reports some ammonia producers are long on tons and, with decreased demand in some parts of the world, buyers have been putting ammonia prices under further pressure. However, there were late reports that demand for February is picking up and some new sales were concluded at month's end, many of which are for February delivery. The main development late in the month was the Tampa import price settlement for February at $495 cfr (cost and freight) mt, a $50 decrease from the previous settlement of $545 cfr. We look for world ammonia prices to run flat to lower in the short term.
Domestic ammonia prices at central Illinois terminals traded flat at $625 per short ton through the month. In the last half of the month, producers were asking $10 higher. Corn and wheat prices are dropping after their recent run-ups. Ammonia producer margins are extremely high as low natural gas prices continue. For the short term, we look for domestic ammonia prices to run firm but flat.
Export urea prices in the world market traded mostly flat for the month. Prilled material at Yuzhnyy crossed at $320 to $324 mt early and drifted down to $315 in the third week of January. Late in the month, prices rallied back up to $325. Prilled prices for Chinese urea were weak through the month, sliding to $280 fob (free on board -- the buyer pays for transportation of the goods) with few markets to target. Chinese prilled prices recovered somewhat late in the month to $285 following news that India was to hold another tender. Granular prices for Middle East material slid from $320 to $344 mt early to $314 to $333 late. Brazilian buyers were active, but were pretty much the only game in town and so were able to beat down offering prices. Going forward, price direction will much depend on the volume of Chinese and Iranian tons offered in the latest Indian tender and also by how much the Indians buy. Many of the smaller regional Chinese buyers are waiting to see what pans out from the Indian tender before committing. There is some inventory at ports, and while tons are being moved there at a cost of about $285 fob, it remains to be seen where exactly the price will fall when it comes to awards in India. We look for world urea market prices to run flat with an undertone of softness in the short term.
Domestic urea prices for granular urea at NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) drifted lower through the month, dropping from $338 to $342 per short ton early to $325 in the mid-month and moving back up to around $335 late. Prospective levels of import tons are much higher this year than last (up 1 million metric ton over the same time period), which could work to limit medium-term price upside. Also ammonia prices remain weak. Demand for urea in Texas is normally strong this time of year, but wet conditions are delaying activity. We expect short-term domestic urea prices to run firm but flat.
NOLA UAN barges traded at $255/32% early in January then moved $10 higher in the last half to $265/32%. UAN prices at some interior terminals ran steady to higher as some Wheat Belt markets saw good demand, but Corn Belt demand remains slow. Dealers are still waiting for farmers to come in before making buying decisions. There is a good deal of ammonia carried over from last fall in the Corn Belt and ammonia prices look to stay weak. An open spring could favor ammonia application, leaving UAN supplies in the tank. For the short term, we expect domestic UAN prices to run firm but flat.
World DAP/MAP prices moved higher through January with Tampa DAP export tons trading at $465 to $470 mt early and moving to $485 to $487 late. Prices of DAP from other origins are following U.S. levels up. Producers in the Baltic are in a comfortable position into February, having sold considerable volumes into South America and Europe. In Northwest Europe prices are a firm $545 to $555 fob port. European demand is in full swing for seasonal reasons and is also getting a boost from buyers who delayed purchasing in the fourth quarter until now. Middle East producers also secured higher prices for DAP and MAP, with Saudi Arabian DAP sold at $485 fob for Australia and in the high $480s fob in Pakistan late in the month. Jordan has concluded a small piece of MAP at $505 fob into Turkey. For the short term we look for world DAP/MAP prices to keep moving higher.
Despite the phosphate prices moving higher in the world markets, domestic prices at NOLA for DAP floundered through the month. NOLA barges traded at $440 to $450 per short ton early and barges were crossing at $440 to $445 late. Domestic prices at NOLA are now equivalent to export prices. Prices at interior terminals remained flat due to inactivity through the month. With world prices continuing strong, domestic prices seem likely to follow along in the short term.
NOLA potash barge prices moved slightly lower through the month. Units traded at $366 to $373 early and prices slipped to $363 to $370 late. Pressure from imported Russian tons and slow new sales combined to bring prices down. So far, there have not been the extreme logistical issues on product coming out of Canada which delayed rail deliveries early last year. For the near term, we look for interior potash prices to run flat with undertone of softness