When it came to fertilizer last year, news of shortages and skyrocketing prices affected farm operations everywhere. But, when it comes to getting a hold of the fertilizer you need for your farm this year, availability may not be the issue.
“At this point in time, we don’t see or foresee any widespread shortages across the U.S. in terms of availability of fertilizer,” according to Jason Troendle, economist with The Fertilizer Institute. He says that last year’s supplies were a little lower than normal but not quite that bad.
“When we look at things on a U.S. basis, we actually had the second-highest total supply of nitrogen over the last eight years. We were down a little bit in terms of phosphate, and we were basically at the five-year average for potash imports. So, although there was maybe quite a bit of noise around there, I think supplies ended up being pretty good last year, and we anticipate that moving into this year,” says Troendle.
He says some of the problems last year may have had to do with misunderstandings between retailers and farmers.
“The grower would go to their retailer in December and say, ‘Hey, can I purchase my ammonia for April 20 delivery,’ and the retailer would say no, and sometimes that was interpreted as the product wasn’t available. And really, what it was is with the prices being so volatile, the retailer wasn’t willing necessarily to price something out that far in advance. So, I think we may see some of that challenge again this year, just in terms of retailers and farmers trying to mitigate risk and not necessarily wanting to put something on the books with as volatile as the market is,” according to Troendle.
He adds that the availability of inputs shouldn’t be a problem this year. However, the price of inputs, is a different story.
“Prices, of course, may be higher than what growers would like to pay for them, but availability, we don’t think, will be a major issue.”
Even though input prices have dropped slightly, Troendle says they aren’t coming down quickly.
“The good news is, even as we’re going into the spring here, we have seen some softening in prices. I think both in terms of on the potash side and the phosphate side, we’ve seen things have been coming off for quite some time now, slowly trickling downwards. And then, even on the nitrogen side, we’ve seen some downward pressure over the last month or two here,” says Troendle.