New York October 11 2021: Fertilizer prices were already running red hot this year before a European energy crisis fanned the flames, potentially adding to a pinch on farmers in the U.S. and around the world and stoking worries about food inflation.
“It’s almost like a perfect storm of different reasons that probably has a lot of upside in price for different macronutrients,” said Samuel Taylor, Cleveland-based executive director of research at Rabobank, in a phone interview.
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Natural gas is a key ingredient in the process used to make nitrogen-based fertilizers used on a range of crops, including corn and wheat. Natural gas accounts for 75% to 90% of operating costs in the production of nitrogen, Taylor noted.
U.K. natural-gas futures GWM00, -3.85% have surged more than 340% so far in 2021, prompting the shutdown of fertilizer factories in the country and elsewhere earlier this year. Henry Hub natural gas futures NG00, +0.74%, the U.S. benchmark, ended Tuesday at a nearly 13-year high. But gas futures pulled back this week after Russian President Vladimir Putin said the country would honor its commitments and could end up exporting record amounts of the fuel, but prices remain historically elevated.
Nitrogen prices have been correlated, with a lag, to natural gas prices, Taylor said, in a phone interview. That means any run-up in natural-gas prices in the North American market would be poised to add to rising nitrogen prices.
Nitrogen fertilizers are a crucial input for corn and wheat.
Front-month urea futures for delivery at the U.S. Gulf of Mexico traded at $680 a ton on Thursday, up 168.2% from its Dec. 31 level of $253.50 and more than triple its level from 12 months ago, according to Dow Jones Market Data. Anhydrous ammonia prices in the U.S. Corn Belt have also soared, as producers prepare to make fall applications.
Other fertilizers have also seen a sharp rise in prices for a variety of reasons.
Diammonium phosphate, or DAP, futures traded at $682.50 a ton, up 74.3% year-to-date and 91.2% over the last 12 months.