There is no short-term reduction in the price of fertiliser on the way, according to Liam Woulfe, managing director of Grassland Agro. Speaking on the IFA inputs webinar on Thursday night, he said: “I can only speak for our company, but we have about 35% less fertiliser imported compared to the same time as last year.
"I see three big issues currently that for me, are ahead of price, which is a big problem. The first is the non-availability of fertiliser, the second is shipping problems and the third is working capital at all the stages, from farm level, into merchant level, importers etc.
"Then fourthly for me comes the price, which we can see is between two and a half and three times where it was this time last year.”
Woulfe showed up-to-date price movements for gas and the various components of fertiliser and suggested he didn’t see any good news on the horizon in the short-term until at least the end of April or early May. He suggested by then that gas, which is over 75% of the production cost, will possibly be back to settle at €60/per megawatt hour from €78 where is it today, which thankfully is down from €90 at Christmas.
In his presentation, he suggested shipping, which was difficult to get, was up 300% in cost, packaging was up 30 to 40%, pallets up 60% and transport was up 10%. Woulfe also touched on exchange rates, and political tensions, such as the situation in Belarus, which is now fully sanctioned so no business is happening and 20% of the total potash comes from the area.
Share the pain
When pushed from the floor by Kieran McEvoy, incoming IFA grain chair, on whether the importers would share the pain with the farmers Woulfe said: “This year will not be about margin and I’ve no difficulty sharing the pain. If I could I’d take a modest margin now, but this year is about not having stock when the price falls given the huge price increase and the volatility in the market.”
McEvoy claimed his fertiliser bill had gone up €95,000 and that last year, despite the best crop in 12 years, he didn’t have €95,000 surplus out of the full year's business.
Cork’s John Coughlan called for an exceptional aid measure from Europe.
"We got it before for low output prices, we are €70 to €90 ahead in fertiliser price of other EU countries and whatever happens in 2022, if this happens again in 2023, then we can say good luck to farming in Ireland.”
Over 300 farmers dialled into the IFA inputs webinar to hear speakers discussing the challenges for the year ahead, despite output prices higher for most sectors excluding pigs.
Other speakers included Shane Whelan, IFA, Rory Deverall, StoneX and David Wall, Teagasc Johnstown. The meeting was chaired by Brian Rushe, deputy president of the IFA.