Belaruskali deal with China dents other players’ chances

Belaruskali deal with China dents other players’ chancesThe potash industry is growing wary of the potential effects on prices the recent deal between Belarus-owned fertilizer group Belaruskali and China will have, as the nation has agreed to buy the firm's product, below the target sought by both Russia's Uralkali and the North American Canpotex consortium.

Under the agreement Belarusian Potash Company (BPC), as the international trader for Belaruskali is known, will sell China the key fertilizer ingredient for $315 a tonne for the first half of 2015, up $10 compared to 2014 prices, but way below what the other players wanted.

Uralkali was seeking a $30 hike on 2014 prices to $335 a tonne including freight, while Canpotex — representing PotashCorp, Mosaic and Agrium — was said to be looking for a $25 rise.

Belaruski’s move could be the first of many more competitive deals by producers in the potash market, which has historically operated with large joint ventures controlling prices.

According to an FT.com (subs. required) analysis, the miner’s move has also disturbed the way negotiations usually go when it comes to China, which tends to set the benchmark for the whole world:

Traditionally Canpotex agreed a price with the Chinese followed by BPC, representing Uralkali and Belaruskali — a partnership which broke up in 2013.

In the face of Belaruskali’s unexpected move, Uralkali said it had little choice but to follow suit. The agreed price between the Belarus group and Chinese importers was “significantly lower” than previously expected, said Oleg Petrov, the Russian group’s head of sales and marketing.

Experts agree the deal, however, is significant for the potash market and more so for BPC as it brings the waiting game to an end, after almost three months of uncertainties.

It also gives BPC a substantial market share in one of the world’s largest potash markets, though the quantity of potash that it will ship to China is still under discussion.