(Resource News International) — After low interest through November and December, farmers in Western Canada are reportedly starting to head to their local retailers to book fertilizer for the spring.
Officials with grain company Viterra, participating in the company’s earnings report conference call on Wednesday, predicted steady bookings between now and March.
A late harvest in Western Canada, combined with poor weather conditions and farmer uncertainty associated with declining fertilizer and crop prices, led to very soft fall fertilizer demand, according to Doug Wonnacott, Viterra’s senior vice-president of agri-products.
Based on those soft fall sales and the company’s prediction that this year’s fertilizer demand will be comparable to last year’s, additional product will be required to move in the spring season, Wonnacott said.
Also, “with the anticipated shift from ammonia to urea, we’re going to see significant volumes of urea moving. There will be a change to the composition of the nitrogen requirement. With this additional demand and assuming we have a normal spring season, there are going to be tremendous logistical constraints,” he said.
Since the last week of December, farmer interest has increased now that nitrogen prices have bottomed out, Wonnacott said.
“We’ve seen urea in the U.S. Gulf move from about $195 a tonne pre-Christmas to $320 a tonne and as a result of that price movement in the U.S., we’ve got growers that are now coming to their retail outlets to book their fertilizer,” he said.
The company predicted steady ongoing movement to farms between now and March before hitting full-stride in April and May, when they “expect to move an awful lot of fertilizer,” Wonnacott said.
In the meantime, Viterra continues to fill its retail outlets, as it’s done for a few months already, as is normally the case at this time of year.
On a volume basis, Viterra’s fertilizer inventory is comparable to last year, although from a value perspective this year’s inventory is much higher due to the pricing of fertilizer.