Cold markets and cool spring weather are combining to keep fertilizer markets soft, on both Midwest and international markets.
Ammonia remains expensive, but it's not getting any more expensive as early planting deadlines for crop insurance pass in the Corn Belt. The cost of imports out of the Black Sea fell another $11.50 a ton to $462.50, $137 a ton lower than last fall when grain prices were just easing off record highs. That suggests prices at the Gulf should continue to pull back in May from their current index cost of $541.50. Still, current wholesale values translate into retail charges of $775 to $790, and some farmers will continue to face higher bills if they're still in the market for supplies. Costs are running $775 to $830 on the Plains, with some higher prices noted this week. USDA put the average price in Iowa at $871.50, though that was off $7.50, in a range from $845 to $898. Imports were off 28% in February but were up 2% over the winter, thanks to prices that rose 22% from year ago levels for foreign product coming into the country.
UAN is steady this week at the Gulf, with a slow start to fieldwork perhaps raising ideas that solutions could once again be favored later this spring. The Gulf charge for 32% was $337.10, though forward contracts are still $30 cheaper. Those Gulf prices translate into a cost of almost $420 for 28%, the high end of the price range on the Plains, but more offers at $400 or more are showing up. USDA put the average cost in Iowa at $379.50, down $15, in a range from $354 to $415 this week. UAN imports were off 18% in February, but rose 26% from December through February, with costs averaging 4% at for imports this winter.
Urea is also softer, after price last week fell from the Gulf to the Middle East. The Gulf lost $9 to $393.50, while expenses out of the Black Sea were down $3.65 to $338.85. The price for swaps into spring is also lower, with May at the Black Sea at $324.30 and the Gulf at $387.50. Current prices suggest retail charges of $520 to $530; that's close to the current cost in some areas, with the Plains running $520 to $580, though USDA put Iowa at $590. The cost of imported urea is a little lower than last year after a huge import program that brought in 43% more product than last winter.