A shortage of phosphate fertiliser is fuelling concerns that farmers may not be able to get the products they need in time for seeding.

Key points:

  • Prices for certain fertilisers and urea have jumped significantly in the past month
  • The problem seems to be a downturn in gas production in China used to make certain fertilisers
  • One trader is worried some farmers may have to sow crops this year without enough fertiliser

At this time of year, farmers are normally talking to their agronomists to secure enough fertiliser to make the most of rain across the country.

However, a shortage of certain fertilisers has driven the price up across the country in only the past two weeks.

Independent fertiliser trader and semi-retired farmer Leighton Huxtable said it is the worst fertiliser shortage he had seen in his lifetime.

“When you see a shortage of anything the price, unfortunately, goes up,” he said.

“Urea is another one that’s jumped significantly in the last four or five weeks by about $120 a tonne.

“The supply is extremely tight right throughout the world.”

Adam Hancock, an agronomist in South Australia’s south east, said his clients are not panicking, but the ones who do not have their fertiliser supplies secured are “scrambling” for more at the moment.

Agronomist Adam Hancock says about 20 per cent of his clients will be stuck with the high prices.(ABC Rural: Bridget Herrmann)

“Things are getting a bit hectic for those growers,” he said.

“It’s halfway between panicking and not panicking.”

Tight supply of gas in China could be the reason

Rabobank senior agricultural analyst Wes Lefroy said the problem seems to be a downturn in the production of gases in China used to make certain fertilisers.

“We’re hearing that there’s a limited supply of gas which is obviously used in the production of some of these processed phosphates,” he said.

“The raw material cost is increasing over there, but we’re also hearing that there’s some tighter environmental protection regulations that are coming in which is impacting our phosphate manufacturing.

“We are hearing that some Australian importers are having trouble gaining clarity over when their cargoes will be reaching Australia.”

Farmers may have to pay a high price to get the fertiliser they need in time for sowing.(ABC Rural: Bridget Herrmann)

Mr Huxtable said he was worried that some growers may have to sow their crops this year without the correct fertilisers.

“I’m very concerned. This is the worst fertiliser situation I’ve seen in my lifetime,” he said.

“Fertiliser may be more available in June-July once production catches up.”