NOLA Rally Crowns US as Premium Urea Market, But is it Too Late to Attract Imports For This Season?


Insatiable demand for prompt NOLA barges has seen US benchmark prices rally more than US$32/st this week with first half April business done up to US$387/st FOB.

Despite farm economics being healthy, consistently declining fertilizer prices since Q3 2022 kept many retailers and wholesalers out of the market. Improved weather forecasts and emerging demand at terminals in the south sparked the rally over the past 10 days.

This is part of the interesting commentary from Profercy.

The lack of urea imports has been a direct consequence of the US market trading at discount to other western markets, bar Brazil, for much of the last three months.

The challenge for buyers now is that major additions to the import line-up for end-April/first half May shipment are unlikely.

Traders are typically cautious over committing potential June arrivals. Nevertheless, with even first half May values either side of US$400/mt cfr, some US$30-US40pt above last done levels into Mexico/Central America and ahead of the calmer European market, some may be tempted.

April Urea NOLA Swaps Pricing Up in Last Few Weeks; Likely Have Seen the Floor for Spring Prices

April Urea NOLA paper (SWAPS) prices have been strong in the past few weeks, moving off most recent trough of US$305/st on March 29 to US$352.50/st on April 12, then getting volatile over the past week moving up to ~US$360/st only to settle back down to US$354.50 on April 19.

North America Urea Last Two Weeks

According to Green Markets, urea pricing in Western Canada last week firmed to C$630-C$650/mt FOB and C$670-C$700/mt DEL, up slightly from the last confirmed C$630-C$640/mt FOB and C$670-C$680/mt DEL ranges.

This week, there were no new prices reported in Western Canada.

NOLA urea continued to strengthen last week as spring demand surges and the availability of prompt, loaded barges tightened.

New business early in the week was quoted at US$350-US$360/st FOB for first-half April, up from last week’s broad US$318-US$355/st range. By midweek confirmed trades were reported at US$363-US$370/st FOB, with business for prompt, loaded barges climbing to a reported high of US$380-US$387/st FOB on April 13.

Near-term demand was the primary driver of the NOLA surge, with forward pricing for full April physical tons quoted in the US$368-US$372/st FOB range and first-half May physical barges trading in the US$335-US$355/st FOB range.

Early this week, NOLA urea continued to be the hot commodity. Prices were reported at the upper end of the week-ago range of US$350-US$387/st FOB, if not higher.

The strengthening NOLA market pushed inland urea prices higher. The latest Cornbelt offers firmed to US$420-US$435/st FOB, while the market in the Northeast jumped to US$440/st FOB Fairless Hills, Pa. New delivered pricing in the Northern Plains was quoted at US$500-US$525/st in North Dakota and Montana, with indications that additional increases are imminent.

North America Phosphate Last Two Weeks

Last week, the MAP market in Western Canada appeared to be inching up, with new April offers quoted at C$1,060-C$1,080/mt FOB and C$1,080-C$1,115/mt DEL, up from the prior C$1,030-C$1,080/mt FOB and C$1,050-$1,060/mt DEL ranges.

This week there were no new prices reported in Western Canada.

Last week, NOLA barge DAP and MAP prices moved higher for the week, as surging spring demand triggered “busy” trading conditions.

Players reported US$620/st FOB sales of domestically produced tons at the outset of the April 7-13 trading period, even with top of the prior-week range, while trades for loaded barges were noted in a US$640-US$660/st FOB range later in the week. With barges reportedly waiting two-three weeks to find a tow due to high water levels and travel restrictions on the Lower Mississippi River, barges offered with a pickup already scheduled commanded a premium, sources said.

Rumors of DAP business up to US$700/st FOB abounded on April 13, although most believed pricing at such a high level to only be possible on tons originating from upriver locations, a perspective supported by reports of US$660/st FOB trading for barges parked at St. Louis.

New DAP offers for NOLA loading were heard in a wide US$620-US$650/st FOB range on April 13, with tons from domestic producers heard toward the range’s low end.

MAP barges also moved up, with sources confirming trading up to US$600/st FOB at midweek, a US$20/st increase from the week-ago US$580/st FOB ceiling, while most cited the low at US$585/st FOB, above the prior US$570/st FOB bottom.

Based on reported trades, the NOLA barge DAP market was called in a wide US$620-US$660/st FOB range, rising from US$610-US$620/st FOB reported previously. MAP barges loading from NOLA firmed to at least the US$585-US$600/st FOB range from the week-ago US$570-US$580/st FOB.

This week, NOLA DAP/MAP was quiet, though it may continue the upward trend of the past few weeks.

Green Markets Global Macro Comments


Urea continues to arrive under the last IPL tender, with no indications that another tender will be called any time soon. Sources still expect the next tender to be called sometime in the last week of May, at the earliest.


The stronger NOLA market was noted impacting the Brazilian market. The landed price moved up to US$330/mt CFR, an increase of US$20-US$35/mt from last week. The firming came as vessels initially slated for Brazilian ports were reportedly diverted to NOLA to take advantage of the higher prices there.


Rumors are now circulating that the Chinese government would on May 1 remove the inspection for export provisions that have hampered exports. While sources said the action was still just in the rumor stage, traders were beginning to think that urea exports and trading out of China might return to levels not seen for several years.

For now, exports remain limited because the asking price remains too high for the global market. The price out of China was quoted in the US$370s/mt FOB, based on the domestic urea price.

Middle East

The increase in NOLA prices led to discussions of an Arab Gulf price in the US$320s/mt FOB. International traders said the uptick was not sustainable, however, noting other deals out of the Arab Gulf in the US$290s/mt FOB. The main activity in the area still appears to stem from the processing and shipping of cargoes tied to last month’s Indian urea tender.

Egyptian producer MOPCO was reported selling four cargoes at US$340/mt FOB. The deals were completed with different traders in quantities ranging from 5,000 mt to 12,000 mt. All of the cargoes were slated to ship in the second half of April.

Sources said the MOPCO urea all appears to be going to European buyers. The small quantities and prompt shipment, said one trader, all point to top-off tons rather than anyone taking a position for future sales.

Industry Tidbits