Potash prices – up or down?

Here are two stories from reputable websites on potash prices- OK, Reuters is probably a better news site than the other one, but . . . .  One story is forecasting lower (Reuters), the other higher (the other one) than we’ve seen in a decade.

So, who do you believe?  Who is right?

Well, first consider the source of the story itself and then who is being quoted.  One is a major potash buyer forecasting lower prices – it’s better for them – and one is a potash exploration level company forecasting higher prices trying – it’s better for their stock price.

In a way, they’re both right – but both may be stretching the truth a little for their own good.  It’s just one forecast is short term (low) and the other long term (higher).

Here are the two stories.

Eric

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Tue Jun 28, 2016 6:02am EDT

India expects potash miners to offer decade-low price after Belarus deal

MUMBAI | BY RAJENDRA JADHAV

Reuters

Leading global potash producers, including Russia’s Uralkali, are likely to supply the crop nutrient to India at the same price Belarus agreed, a key Indian negotiator with overseas suppliers told Reuters.

Belarus on Monday agreed to sell 700,000 tonnes of potash to Indian Potash Limited (IPL) at $227 per ton, the lowest price in a decade.

“Uralkali has very good relations with Indian buyers. We are hopeful that it will agree to $227,” said P.S. Gahlaut, managing director of IPL, the country’s biggest importer.

The contract price with Belarus is too low, and Uralkali, the world’s biggest potash producer, is not yet ready to sign a potash supply contract with India, said a company spokesman.

“We cannot offer a higher price to any supplier. If they insist, then we can postpone purchases,” Gahlaut said.

Usually, the first contract is signed by a major producer and then it becomes a benchmark for other miners. In the past, all suppliers have agreed over the price negotiated in the first contract.

This year, the price agreed upon by Belarus is a third lower than last year, and a few suppliers feel it is too low.

“Belarus agreed to a lower price in a hurry,” said an official with a leading potash miner.

Major potash suppliers to India include Uralkali, Potash Corp of Saskatchewan, Agrium Inc, Mosaic, K+S, Arab PotashCo and Israel Chemicals.

Indian companies could sign contracts for another 3 million tonnes in the next few weeks, if other suppliers offer the same price, said an official with a Mumbai-based fertilizer company.

Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers Ltd (RCF), IFFCO and Chambal Fertilisers and Chemicals, and Tata Chemicals are among the key potash buyers in India.

India has nearly 1 million tonnes of carry-forward stocks of potash as last year’s drought trimmed consumption, Gahlaut said.

“Carry-forward stocks and the supply of 700,000 tonnes from the new contract are sufficient to cater the demand for next 3-4 months,” he said.

India and China, the world’s biggest fertilizer consumers, usually sign contracts earlier in the year. This year, deals were delayed as high stocks held by farmers meant there was no rush to agree a deal.

India’s deal is a rare instance of the country signing a potash supply contract with a major producer before China.

(Additional reporting by Polina Devitt in MOSCOW; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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Potash price surge could lead to higher food costs for billions

http://www.mining.com/web/potash-price-surge-could-lead-to-higher-food-costs-for-billions/

June 27th 2016

If you can add 200,000 people every day to the global population and account for a significant loss of farmland at the same time, you can begin to understand the dire food situation facing the planet. This is why potash is so important: It’s the fundamental element that everyone takes for granted, despite the fact that a projected 7.7 billion lives will depend upon it by 2020.

No commodity is more fundamental than potash—and there is a lot of pressure riding on an element that many people aren’t even familiar with. Of the key commodities taken for granted, potash is on the top of the list.

The challenge for farmers—and for the world—is to increase crop yields on less land, which is being lost to climate change and increasing urbanization. This means not only steady demand for the three main elements of fertilizer—potash, phosphate and nitrogen—but significantly higher demand.

“A growing population needing to be fed from a limited amount of arable land makes fertilizer and particularly potash a robust commodity,” Potash Ridge President and CEO Guy Bentinck told Oilprice.com. “Additionally, as the middle class grows, the demand for higher-end food increases, and with that the demand for potash and related fertilizers increases.”

For such a critical element, it’s hard to believe that potash remains so elusive. It took a high-profile US$40-billion hostile takeover attempt of Saskatchewan’s Potash Corp., which failed, by major miner BHP Billiton in 2010 for even the Wall Street Journal to decide to figure out what all the fuss was about.

Potash, and various potassium-containing compounds are used to fertilize crops as a necessary resource for the growth of plants. In many regions of the world, there are large potash-bearing deposits from ancient sea beds that dried up millions of years ago. Most potash comes from these sources and is separated from the salt and other minerals and then graded into a form that can be used to make fertilizer.

So even if you haven’t heard of it, Potash is so big that it eludes radar—until the giant miners start aggressively positioning themselves for bigger pieces of this pie.

If you’re still not sold on potash, consider this: As far as commodities go, though it’s been a tough couple of years, Potash outperformed gold, silver, copper and oil and gas in 2015, and this year, as its cycle comes full circle, it’s back by popular demand.

The Potash Playing Field

This is a huge playing field with some of the biggest miners in the world—all vying for market share.

Russia, Belarus, China, Germany, the U.S., Israel, Jordan and China are all major potash miners, with Canada currently holding the top position for the commodity–producing 11 million tons last year and the year before, compared to Number 2 producer Russia’s 7.4 million tons.

Canada is also home to the world’s largest fertilizer company by capacity—Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, or Potash Corp.—the target of BHP Billiton’s long-running covetousness.

The U.S. came in at 770,000 tons of potash production in 2015, mostly from New Mexico and Utah, which have a total of seven potash mines. Most of the U.S. potash goes to the fertilizer industry, while small amounts are diverted to the chemical industry. The four mines in New Mexico are controlled by two companies—Intrepid Potash (NYSE:IPI) and Mosaic (NYSE:MOS). In Utah, it’s Intrepid again, Compass Minerals (NYSE:CMP), and Canadian explorer Potash Ridge (TSX:PRK) with its Blawn Mountain project. Potash Ridge’s Valleyfield project in Quebec is projected to produce 40,000 tons of SOP (sulfate of potash) annually, with construction slated to begin later this summer.

The movements among the big potash players make huge market ripples. In 2015, a US$500-million loan deal from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and China Construction Bank with Russian potash major Uralkali, effectively gave China greater control over global potash production. Uralkali accounts for about 20 percent of the world’s potash production.

China—a major demand center for potash—now has immense influence in the potash market, and is both a major producer and a major importer because demand is far greater than domestic supply. The Chinese potash contracts that are typically made in February every year—but delayed this year—are a critical annual point for producers.

Not all Potash is Equal: Some Potash is Posh

As Mr Bentinck has noted above, the middle class is growing, and they want higher-quality, healthier food, which means cash crops. This demographic change is leading to a health food revolution for which potash is the primary element. But not all fertilizers are equal in this game.

The two most common forms of fertilizer are MOP (muriate of potash) and SOP (sulfate of potash). Right now, MOP is the most common; but while it’s good for some crops, it’s not good for others, and it can create environments that are detrimental to some crops, primarily due to high levels of chloride.

SOP, on the other hand, is the premium end of potash. It’s the posh potash. It improves both the quality and yield of a crop, while at the same time making them more drought, frost, insect and disease-resistant. It’s been said that SOP also improves the taste of the food by improving its ability to absorb nutrients.

The other problem with MOP today is that the market is temporarily over-supplied and prices have dropped, which has prompted some more junior miners—such as Potash Ridge in Quebec and Utah–to swoop in to take advantage of the opportunity for the less common SOP. Potash Ridge, which is one of the fastest-growing juniors on the posh potash scene, says SOP “continues to be one of the best performing commodities across all sectors, which realized prices in North America exceeding US$880 per ton in the fourth quarter of 2015.”

Riding the Cycles: The Potash Catalysts Are Already Visible

Fertilizer demand is set to increase over the long-term. While globally we consumed 35.5 million tons of potash in 2015, the next four years should see this rise to 39.5 million tons.

The catalysts for potash are already clear and present. The grain cycles that affect fertilizer are coming back around now; the long overdue, but now occurring monsoon season in India should relieve several quarters of slumping demand in this major demand venue; a health food boom is increasing demand for the SOP form of potash; long-term global population figures stand starkly against plummeting farmland figures; and major potash production is coming offline in the near-term, making even more room for the juniors to break in.

Remember—grain crops are cyclical, so buying when they are down is when the big investors make all their money. Just because corn and other key crops that rely on potash have been down, adversely affecting fertilizer revenues—doesn’t mean they’re out. Corn has many booms and busts; buy on the bust, right before the next cycle boom.

One of the biggest immediate-term catalysts will be the planned moves by giant Potash Corp., it’s Canadian competitor Agrium (NYSE:AGU) and Mosaic to take potash production offline in order to rebalance the supply side of the market—something everyone’s been trying to get OPEC to do with oil to no avail. This means that in the next few months we should see potash prices recover, so the window to get in on the downside here is only open a crack.

The last great cycle for potash was 2004-2008, but prices for MOP have dropped 60 percent since then, while prices for SOP have doubled since then.

 

While MOP is experiencing a glut right now that could soon be rebalanced, supply for SOP is tight, making the margins for SOP increasingly attractive, and the juniors breaking into a high-reward versus risk bargain.

“The global SOP market appears to be under-supplied, with current tightness of the market demonstrating demand for additional global capacity outside China,” according to Neil Fleishman, Director of Research for Green Markets.

To Re-Cap: This is Why We Like Potash

There is massive opportunity here in the uncertainty of this market, for which the fundamentals absolutely must re-balance in the medium-term.

And while the MOP fundamentals might take a bit longer to fully rebalance as the global supply-demand picture recovers, the premium-priced posh potash, SOP, is the emerging darling that gives us cause to look more bullishly at the break-out juniors here.

By James Stafford of Oilprice.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About prosperitysaskatchewan

Consultant on Saskatchewan's natural resources.

Posted on June 28, 2016, in economic impact, potash. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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