Fertilizer market situation

Market structure, consumption and trade patterns, and pricing behavior

Manuel A. Hernandez, Maximo Torero
ifpri discussion paper

This study provides an overview of the current market situation in the fertilizer industry. In particular, it examines global trends in production, consumption, trade, and prices, with special emphasis given to the level of concentration of the industry at both the global and the country level. It then analyzes the market situation in key developing regions, including sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and South Asia. A regression analysis is conducted at the end of the study to formally examine the relationship between fertilizer (urea) prices and market concentration. The results of the study indicate that the fertilizer industry is a global market with high levels of concentration and increasing trade. The top five countries control more than 50 percent of the world’s production capacity for all major fertilizer products. There is also a high level of concentration at the country level among the major producing countries, except for China. The high and increasing levels of trade in the industry are evident from the higher dependence of several regions on imported fertilizer. International fertilizer prices have also shown an upward trend in recent years. All three regions analyzed show high levels of concentration in production, as well as an increase in their imports, regardless of their different production and consumption levels. Thus, while South Asia is both a major fertilizer producer and consumer, sub-Saharan Africa is by far the smallest producer and consumer in the world. In addition, although Latin America is an important consumer, it is a small-sized producer. Finally, the regression analysis provides some evidence that urea prices tend to be higher in less competitive markets. It appears that despite the high levels of concentration in the industry, prices are even higher in further concentrated markets due to the apparent greater market power enjoyed by a couple of firms.