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Potash shares soar, as Belarus president moves to reform cartel

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Could the mighty Belarusian Potash Company potash cartel rise from the ashes?

According to state news services, Belarus' president has announced his openness to re-forging BPC, a potash marketing cartel which included the Belarusian state-owned Belaruskali.

The Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, suggested that an agreement between Belaruskali and Russia-based Uralkali could allow them to divide up markets, and agree production limits.

Shares in rival potash companies are up sharply on the news, which could bring greater supply discipline to the glutted potash market.

'Let's agree on the volume of produdction'

The Belarusian Telegraph Country, which is state-owned, reports that President Lukashenko raised the possibility of a fresh supply deal with Uralkali at an event in Minsk.

"Virtually every month new shareholders of Uralkali contact me to say that they want to co-operate," Mr Lukashenko said.

"Today they are ready to co-operate with us," he said. "Let's agree on the volumes of production."

"To put it plainly, we will divide markets and will not compete with each other," he said "It will bring good dividends."

Uralkali could not be reached for comment.

Collapse of a cartel

Up until 2013, BPC marketed the potash supply of Uralkali and Belaruskali, representing a third of the world's potash output between them.

With a huge slice of the world's remaining supply in the hands of Canpotex, BPC's North American counterpart, the potash market was often described as a duopoly.

Supply was limited by the two cartels, which set the benchmarks for world prices in private negotiations with buyers in China and India.

Price slump

But this arrangement came crashing down in 2013, when Uralkali pulled out of BPC, claiming that Belaruskali had been selling potash outside of the cartel system.

Uralkali quickly announced a policy of heavier production, sending the potash market into a slump from which it has yet to recover.

Contracts between the major exporters and India and China, which under the duopoly were negotiated and signed at the start of the year, have still not been agreed upon.

Shares soar

Shares in rival Potash Companies were up sharply on the news.

In New York PotashCorp shares were up 7.1% on the day in midday deals, at $17.70 a share, while Mosaic shares were up 5.8%, at $28.31.

In Germany, K+S shares were up 5.5%, at E22.165.


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