US ammonia import volumes leap 23% in January 2013

08 March 2013 16:43  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--Ammonia imports to the US surged 23% year-on-year in volume terms to 692,047 short tons in January from 561,044 short tons in the year-ago period, data published by The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) revealed on Friday.

In value terms, ammonia imports to the US rocketed 52% year-on-year in January 2013 to $407.9m (€310m) from $268.9m, as producers took advantage of rising prices created by a tightening of the global supply/demand balance.

Despite recent falls in worldwide ammonia prices, cargoes sold in the Black Sea averaged around $445/tonne FOB (free on board) in January 2012, versus January 2013's average of $600/tonne FOB.

At just over 335,000 short tons in January, Trinidad and Tobago remained the main source of ammonia for US buyers despite natural gas curtailments limiting the island's output rate. According to the statistics released by the Washington DC-based group showed, the Caribbean country exported nearly 413,000 short tons to the US in January 2012.

Gas curtailments averaged 20-30% in the final quarter of 2012 and are expected to average 10% in 2013, although ammonia producers on the island were this week told curtailments will rise to 15% for at least a month to allow maintenance on a well.

In value terms, the US imported nearly $189.2m of ammonia from Trinidad and Tobago in the first four weeks of the year, compared with almost $187.3m in January 2012. January and February are key months for ammonia shipments to the US, as thousands of farmers across the Midwest fill their fertilizer tanks for the vital spring application season.

Other key sources of ammonia for American farmers and industrial users included Canada, Russia and the Ukraine, which shipped 129,940, 108,103 and 70,515 short tons respectively to the US in January 2013.

In value terms, Canadian ammonia exports to the US in January 2013 totalled $85.2m versus $63.7m in the year-ago period. Russian and Ukrainian imports to the US were valued at $63.6m and $41.8m, respectively, though no comparative data was provided.

Venezuela was the next largest exporter of ammonia to the US market, according to available data, with 27,214 short tons worth $16.5m lifted in January 2013, up around 10% in volume terms on the same month of the year prior.

Ammonia prices in the Black Sea, US Gulf and Arabian Gulf all maintained their recent downward drift in early 2013 following weak demand from industrial users in Asia and high diammonium phosphate (DAP) inventories in India. Ammonia is a key feedstock of DAP and monoammonium phosphate (MAP).

While ammonia shipments to DAP and MAP producers in North Africa and India have started to increase, the benchmark Yuzhny price fell to $575/tonne FOB for March loadings from $550/tonne FOB for February shipments. The price has fallen steadily from the $650/tonne FOB price level agreed for October loadings.

This month's lower Yuzhny price was clearly reflected in the latest US Gulf price, which major producer and importer Yara settled at $625/tonne CFR (cost and freight) Tampa for March loadings. That figure is almost $100/tonne less than the 2012 high of $720/tonne CFR witnessed for November shipments.

($1 = €0.76)

By: Richard Ewing
+44 208 652 3214

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