It’s little wonder that potash prices in Brazil are particularly high.

At nearly $1,200 per tonne, they have soared by $835 per tonne year on year, according to Nutrien, one of the world’s top producers of the fertilizer.

That compares with a $448-per-tonne appreciation in US Midwest values, and a $660-tonne jump in South East Asian values.

The trouble for Brazil is that it is particularly reliant on the former Soviet Union supplies which are now being squeezed, thanks to sanctions imposed by many countries following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

‘Significant supply uncertainty’

Brazil is the top buyer of potash from Russia, the second-ranked producer of the nutrient after Canada.

Last year, it accounted for 31% of Russia’s shipments, which totalled nearly 15m tonnes, but over which there is now “uncertainty… due to financial constraints imposed by Western nations in response to the conflict in Ukraine”.

The South American country is the biggest buyer of potash too from Belarus, which has also been caught up in Western sanctions thanks to its support for the Ukraine war (having already been handed trade curbs over claims of stirring up migrant unrest on the Belarus-EU border).

Brazil took 19% of Belarusian overall shipments of some 13m tonnes last year.

Yet buyers should now “expect significant supply uncertainty and production constraints from Belarus… due to severe sanctions imposed from the US and EU, and lack of access to ports through Lithuania”.

‘Surge of purchases’

Add it up, and that is a total of some 7m tonnes of Brazilian supplies at risk, equivalent to more than half the nation’s 2021 consumption.

At least Brazil’s farmers are not facing empty handed the prospect of squeezed former Soviet Union supplies.

As Mosaic, the top US-based fertilizer group, said overnight: “A surge of purchases pushed [Brazil’s potash] imports to a record-high of 3m tonnes in the first quarter”.

However, the group added that with “the expectation of lower import availability”, and a squeeze on demand from high ag input costs, Brazil’s “total fertilizer shipments are now forecast to decline by about 4% in 2022”.

Potash imports will dip by up to 0.9m-1.5m tonnes over 2022 as a whole, to 11.6m-12.2m tonnes.

Given the front-end loading, that looks more of a problem for prospects for the likes of soybeans and first crop corn, which are planted then, as well as coffee, for which it is also a busy nutrient period, with the annual flowering and cherry-setting period ongoing.