North American potash producers got off to a flying start to
2013 for exports, offering support to industry hopes that a deal signed with China
will spark a rash of demand from other importers.
Companies including Mosaic and PotashCorp exported 657,000
tonnes of potash last month, up 38% year on year.
The rise, which represented the first two successive months
of rising exports since 2011, followed the signing late in December of a
long-awaited supply contract between North American producers and China, the
top importer, which delayed a new deal in a drive to secure lower prices.
Potash producers blamed China's stand-off for a demand
slowdown which saw world potash shipments in 2012 fall well below initial
expectations, and forced inventories held by North American producers above 3m
tonnes as of the year of the year, 37% above average levels.
Many potash groups, such as US-based Intrepid Potash
and Canada's PotashCorp, have forecast
better market prospects now the China deal has been sealed, with India, the
second-ranked importer, also now having ended its own stand-off with exporters.
North American producers' potash stocks fell by nearly
40,000 tonnes in January, reducing to 29% their extra size, compared with average
levels, and representing the first decline in four months, the data, from
Sales in the North American market were strong too, rising
by 3% month-on-month to a level 67% above that in January 2012, and mirroring a
trend seen in some other agricultural raw materials too.
Central bankers at the Federal Reserve's St Louis bank noted
last week that "rising fertilizer and seed costs may have enticed some crop
producers to pre-pay for 2013 inputs".
However, prices of potash itself, as measured at Vancouver,
continued a gentle decline last month, the PotashCorp data showed.