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Global Fertilizer Market Affects U.S. Import Prices

The recent spike in fertilizer prices will have a significant impact on U.S. crop production moving forward. The global fertilizer market had already been tightening before plants were forced to cut production given the rise in the cost of gas, a key feedstock (Larkin, 2021). In the U.S., this has resulted in a significant increase in fertilizer import prices. Over the last 5 years (2016-2020), U.S. fertilizer imports have averaged nearly $6 billion (around 25 million metric tons), accounting for a significant share of total fertilizer use in the U.S. (USDA-ERS, 2019).

Most U.S. imports are either potassic fertilizer (potash) and nitrogenous fertilizer, as well as mixed fertilizers. Since 2017, potassic import prices have averaged less than $220 per metric ton (MT) but has increased to nearly $300/MT in recent months (August 2021), which is an increase of about 40% when compared to the average from 2017-2020. Nitrogenous fertilizer, which also averaged less than $220/MT over the last four to five years, is now more than $350/MT, an increase of about 71% when compared to 2017-2020. The price of imported mixed fertilizer has increased to nearly $700/MT, up 58% when compared to 2017-2020. Trends suggest that fertilizer import prices will continue to increase, resulting in significant economic strain for U.S. producers.

U.S. fertilizer import prices significantly higher in 2021 due to global supply and demand issues

Note: HS is the Harmonized System Classification, which is the nomenclature system used to track trade goods.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service’s Global Agricultural Trade System (2021). https://apps.fas.usda.gov/GATS/default.aspx

References

Larkin, N. (October 15, 2021) Supply Lines Fertilizer Crisis Piles More Pressure on World’s Future Food Supply. Bloomberghttps://www.bloomberg.com/news/newsletters/2021-10-15/supply-chain-latest-warnings-mount-over-fertilizer-crisis

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service (USDA-ERS) (2019). Fertilizer Use and Pricehttps://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/fertilizer-use-and-price.aspx  

Muhammad, Andrew. “Global Fertilizer Market Affects U.S. Import Prices“. Southern Ag Today 1(46.4). November 11, 2021. Permalink

Professor and Blasingame Chair of Excellence in Agricultural Policy
University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture

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