The amount of fertiliser bought by NI farmers hit another record low during the first nine months of 2023, according to new statistics published by DAERA.

Over the first three quarters of the year, there were 202,400t of fertiliser delivered to local farms, which is down 13% year-on-year.

The figure is 29% lower than the same period in 2021 and represents a 37% decrease compared to 2020 levels.

The reduction in fertiliser use is notable, given that prices eased back throughout most of 2023 and the current figures are the lowest in DAERA’s quarterly dataset, which runs back to 2008.

The new statistics back up reports from local merchants that fertiliser sales remained quiet throughout July, August, and September this year.

There were 50,900t of product delivered in the third quarter of the year, which is 32% lower than the 74,400t which moved during the same period in 2022. Breaking down fertiliser sales by product type, the figures show that 97,000t of compound fertiliser were sold during the first nine months of 2023. Deliveries of ammonium nitrates mixtures, such as CAN, equated to 79,800t and 22,300t of urea moved on to farms up to the end of September.

Suppliers are expecting little forward-buying activity from local farmers during the final weeks of 2023 and into early 2024, mainly due to cashflow being tight across all farming sectors at present.

The other factor is that some farmers remember bad experiences from last year when they forward-bought expensive fertiliser during the winter, but prices moved downwards by the spring.