The May 2014 approximate retail prices for bulk purchases of major fertilizers per ton compared to May 2013, published in the USDA Illinois Market Report are shown in the table below. All major fertilizers except urea were cheaper in May 2014 compared to a year ago.

Fertilizer                             May 2014     May 2013

Anhydrous ammonia             $755              $888

Urea                                     541               527

Urea-UAN 28%                       372               392

Potash                                  465               567

DAP                                      597               600

MAP                                      590               614

The year-to-year price variations during this period are shown in Figure 1. As expected, most fertilizers rallied from dramatic off-season price drops that started in August 2013.

Industry specialists, such as David Asbridge, president of the NPK Fertilizer Advisory Service, believe that the strong urea market was due to shortages in supplies. The Russia/Ukraine situation has hurt some production out of Eastern Europe. Also, urea imports into the U.S. have been lower than expected in the Gulf Coast as well as from Canada due to the railroad issues and frozen rivers in the cold winter. The expectation is that urea prices will weaken during the summer lull. Also, the Chinese are set to export a record 8.5-9.5 million tons of urea this year, which will depress the market as well.

Michigan State University Extension emphasize that despite the current favorable fertilizer market, any unforeseen deterioration in global economic and political conditions can cause dramatic price shifts, impacting local farmers.