A strong rebound in global fertilizer demand in 2020 is expected with more acres planted in the United States, according to a fertilizer analyst. Despite this positive outlook, there are some risks from across the world that threaten to alter this forecast.
Rajiv Ram, senior analyst of agriculture and fertilizer demand for CRU Int. Ltd., said during the global fertilizer demand outlook at the 2019 Fertilizer Outlook and Technology Conference held in mid-November in Savannah, Georgia, that 2019 had several challenges to demand from uncooperative weather to trade disputes. However, the demand prospects for 2020 look to improve.
STEADY DEMAND GROWTH
Global fertilizer demand has seen good growth since 2000, excluding the impact of the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009. The world fertilizer demand in 2000 was at about 140 million metric tons (mmt), and by 2018, this number was at just under 200 mmt.
Ram said the global fertilizer demand number will be right around 200 mmt for 2019. No growth was seen because of two main reasons, he said.
The first reason is due to fewer planted acres in the U.S. in 2019 because of the extremely wet weather. Fewer acres planted led to fewer acres needing fertilizer applications.
The other reason for the steady fertilizer demand seen in 2019 was issues with fertilizer demand in China.
Ram said China’s share of the global nutrient demand is large, but is falling. China nutrient demand in 2018 was 200 mmt, around 30% of the global demand, but by 2024, the number might drop closer to 25% of the global fertilizer market.
“There are several factors of why there is weakness in China,” Ram said. “Unsupportive crop market fundamentals, falling application rates, increasing farm size and efficiency and changing fertilizer practice are all reasons for less Chinese demand.”
China’s fertilizer demand is evolving rapidly as falling nutrient demand is being seen on crops, but is being offset by increased applications on fruit and vegetable area. Overall, Chinese nitrogen and phosphate demand is falling and is forecast to continue to fall in the future, but potash use is rising, he said.
In 2018, nitrogen demand in China was at 25 mmt while phosphate was at 10 mmt. Both nutrients are expected to fall looking out to 2024, he noted. Potash is at just 10 mmt in use in 2018, and by 2024, this number could be over 10 mmt.