Australia is a small player in the global fertilizer market. The International Fertilizer Association estimates global fertilizer consumption (nutrient elements) at 100 million tonnes of nitrogen (Australia 1 million tonnes), 17 million tonnes of phosphorus (Australia 0.4 million tonnes) and 31 million tonnes of potassium (Australia 0.2 million tonnes). Australian consumption on a total nutrient (NPK) basis is therefore just over 1% of global consumption.
World trade in fertilizer products (tonnes of product) is around 200 million tonnes per annum meaning Australia’s imports are less than 2% of the total and exports less than 0.5%.
When discussing fertilizer volumes two types of units are commonly used. Tonnes of elements such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) and tonnes of product such as Urea, MAP, DAP, Single Superphosphate and Muriate of Potash.
As an example, urea is a nitrogen fertilizer that contains 46% nitrogen thus a tonne of urea contains 460Kg of nitrogen. Major fertilizers and their typical analysis are listed in the table below.
The majority of fertilizers are commodity products so that one company’s product is readily interchangeable with another’s.
Import and export prices are determined by world markets and therefore subject to the pressures of global supply and demand.