Demand for the crop nutrient potash is seen recovering in the second quarter despite a weak start to the year, the head of marketing consortium Canpotex told Reuters.

Chief Executive Steven Dechka said Canpotex is projecting overall 2012 shipments in line with 2011 levels. It exports potash on behalf of its three owners -- Potash Corp, Mosaic and Agrium Inc.

"We had a fall in the fourth quarter as the European crisis started to hit again, people started getting nervous," he said. "We've had a slower than expected, I can be honest, first quarter."

But Dechka said he sees the market balancing out as inventories get drawn down and confidence improves, with a strong recovery by the second quarter.

Dechka said a new supply deal with China is close, and the company is expecting to have the contract "hopefully by the end of this month".

The company sees shipments to China in 2012 close to 2011 levels, and a "very strong" year in Brazil, close to last year's record.