A Perfect Storm in Fertilizer Markets
World prices for phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizers reached low levels in early 2020 and have been increasing sharply to reach levels not seen since 2008. Potassium fertilizer prices remain low internationally but have reached much higher levels in the Corn Belt region and Brazil. The World Bank reports a 66% increase in fertilizer prices in 2021 in its commodity outlook and anticipates potassium fertilizer prices to sharply increase in 2022. What explains these steep increases in most fertilizer prices? In short, a perfect storm of supply shocks, weather events, plant closures, imperfectly competitive and shallow market structure, and a series of policy changes has been brewing and is now culminating into concerning price volatility and deterioration in fertilizer affordability. In this article, industry professionals review these various elements in turn.