In the wake of Hamas’ unexpected attack on Israel, fertilizer producers experienced a notable uptick, driven by growing apprehensions about the potential impact of the conflict on global supplies of essential nutrients crucial for cultivating vital food crops.
Port of Ashdod Emergency Raises Global Potash Supply Concerns
The Port of Ashdod in Israel, a significant center for the country’s potash fertilizer exports situated just north of Gaza, is currently operating in emergency mode due to the ongoing deadly conflict. Scotiabank analyst Ben Isaacson highlighted on Monday that this situation places up to 3% of the global potash supply at potential risk.
Iran’s Potential Role Adds Complexity and Risk
The concern deepens as the conflict unfolds, considering the strategic importance of the Port of Ashdod and its role in Israel’s potash fertilizer exports. Notably, potash is a key component in fertilizer and plays a vital role in enhancing crop yields. Adding to the complexity, Isaacson pointed out that if Iran, a crucial nitrogen exporter in the region, becomes entangled in the conflict, it could lead to a spike in prices of nitrogen, a critical nutrient for grain production. The limited supply and potential premiums in benchmark Dutch TTF natural gas, utilized in the production of nitrogen-based fertilizers, could contribute to the price surge.
Major Fertilizer Companies Witness Significant Stock Gains
In response to these geopolitical concerns, shares of major fertilizer companies witnessed significant gains. Nutrien Ltd., the world’s largest potash producer, saw a rise of up to 4.2%, marking its most substantial increase since July. CF Industries Holdings Inc., a leading nitrogen producer, experienced an increase of as much as 6.2%, the most significant uptick in over a month. Mosaic Co. climbed as much as 6.7%, marking its most substantial intraday gain in nearly a year.
Global Fertilizer Prices: From Surge to Cooling
It’s noteworthy that global fertilizer prices had cooled considerably earlier this year after a surge in 2022 attributed to supply disruptions from the conflict in Ukraine.
Iran’s Potential Involvement and the Strait of Hormuz
The potential involvement of Iran in the Israel conflict introduces further complexities, as it could jeopardize vessel movement through the vital Strait of Hormuz. Tehran has previously issued threats to close down this crucial conduit, through which a third of traded liquefied natural gas passes, as highlighted by Isaacson.
Anticipated Nitrogen Price Surge Adds to Existing Concerns
Even before the current geopolitical developments, firmer nitrogen prices were anticipated later this year due to a nearly 10% surge in European natural gas prices following a pipeline leak in the Baltic, according to Alexis Maxwell, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst.
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