Demand outlook cautious

The combination of elevated commodity prices, an expected expansion in acreage sowed, low potash prices and the cash-rich position of (most) farmers, especially those in North and South America, provides a positive outlook for spring application demand.

Robert Winslow of National Bank Financial, however, is cautious. He told The Energy Report that both demand destruction and supply response are occurring globally as a result of rising crop and grain prices.

High grain prices have priced a number of consumers out the market, causing a corresponding reduction in food operations in some key markets. Expanding agricultural supply is also an issue; soybean acreage in Brazil and corn acreage in the United States are expected to increase by 8 to 10 percent and 2 percent, respectively.

In Winslow's opinion, potash demand will slide later this year on concerns about North American potash stockpile growth — the result of months of deferred Asian supply contracts.

“Part of the investment thesis for the Canpotex producers is that shipments will rebound in '13," Mark Gulley, a BGC Financial analyst, told Reuters, “but the problem is that there's plenty of product around.”

Weather, as always, will play an important role in how fertilizer demand will shape up later in the year. Drought and heat reduced optimal growing conditions in a number of countries in 2012 — particularly the United States — and that has significantly dented grain supplies.

Company news

Following the investment and offtake deals announced by Karnalyte Resources (TSX:KRN) and Encanto Potash (TSXV:EPO) in recent weeks, Western Potash (TSX:WPX), announced that it has engaged UBS Securities Canada to help secure financing for its Milestone potash project, located 30 kilometers south of Regina, Saskatchewan.

Western's executive vice president, Dean Pekeski, said the company is currently searching for financing and told The Star Phoenix that "[o]ver the next three or four years, our goal is to secure the money needed to build the mine, do that and ultimately get it into production sometime in 2016."