May Urea NOLA Swaps Taking Over Spotlight

May Urea NOLA paper (SWAPS) prices have been quite volatile over the past few weeks driven largely by the lack of barges available to load at NOLA. May paper started the year on January 3, 2023, at US$470/st. Then the price fell precipitously to the most recent trough of US$298/st on March 29, only to turnover and rise to US$376/st on April 13, fall to US$337/st on April 19 and rise again to US$376/st on April 25. This indicates that the market lacks direction and can’t figure out what to do.

North America Urea Last Two Weeks

According to Green Markets, urea pricing in Western Canada firmed again last week to C$690-C$760/mt DEL from C$670-C$700/mt DEL the previous week.

On the other hand, urea prices remained under pressure in Eastern Canada last week. The market slipped to a broad C$680-C$875/mt FOB range in late April, depending on location and supplier, below the previous low of C$700/mt.

This week, there was no new news regarding urea Western Canada.

According to Green Markets, NOLA barge trades were reported at US$355-US$390/st early last week, largely in line with the week-ago US$350-US$387/st FOB. By late Thursday afternoon, however, a trade was reported as low as US$338/st FOB.

Last week, the fast fieldwork pace stretched supplies of urea in the Western corn belt, pushing prices higher as the week progressed. Urea was quoted at US$410-US$430/st FOB in the region, up from last week’s US$395-US$425/st FOB, with the St. Louis, Mo., market reported at US$410-US$425/st FOB. Inventories were reportedly tapped out at Port Neal, Iowa, at midweek, where the last price was quoted at the US$425/st FOB level.

Early this week, NOLA urea prices shot up to over US$400/st FOB in early-week trading, with reports of prices as high as US$440/st FOB for prompt business.

Also, the NOLA urea volatility this week continued to push inland terminal prices higher. Corn belt urea was generally reported in the US$485-US$500/st FOB range at midweek, up from US$410-US$450/st last week, while new pricing in the Southern Plains firmed from US$445-US$480/st FOB on Monday to a reported high of US$495-US$500/st FOB Catoosa/Inola, Okla., by Wednesday.

North America Phosphate Last Two Weeks

Last week, the MAP market in Western Canada was flat week-over-week in a range of C$1,080-$1,115/mt. However, no new prices were reported in Western Canada this week.

New MAP offers in Eastern Canada last week firmed to C$1,030-C$1,280/mt FOB, depending on location and supplier, up C$35/mt at the low end of the range.

Last week, players described a quieter NOLA phosphate market following the previous week’s frenzy, leaving DAP prices holding near the top of the prior range, while MAP barges firmed.

NOLA MAP barges pressed definitively higher, however, with sources quoting the weekly low at US$620/st FOB, above last week’s US$600/st FOB top. Players reported offers for both imported material and domestically produced barges at US$630/st FOB on April 20. Sources reported moving MAP barges changing hands in a US$650-US$655/st FOB range during the week.

MAP barges loading from NOLA traded at US$620/st FOB, rising from US$585-US$600/st FOB reported one week earlier. 

This week, NOLA DAP/MAP were reported to have edged up in early-week trading.

Green Markets Global Macro Comments


Sources said traders are still scouring the market to nail down the last set of tons awarded in the Indian Potash Ltd. (IPL) tender. The global market remains awash with extra urea, said one trader, and with a shipping deadline of June 1, it should not be difficult to find the necessary tons. Prices are beginning to move up, however, cutting into the profit margins of material sold at US$330-US$335/mt CFR.

There are still expectations that another tender will be called during the last week of May. Sources said the call could come earlier if all the tons awarded in the previous tender have vessels nominated.


Sources said that efforts to push the price to US$365/mt CFR were attempted and failed, with deals settling at US$340-US$350/mt CFR. The move came as the global markets reacted to stronger prices out of the US and Egypt.


The urea market is waiting to see what changes – if any – Beijing will make in its export provisions for urea. An announcement is expected on May 1.

Uncertainty about the situation has prices in a state of flux. Early reports of small deals being done at US$350/mt FOB for regional buyers in Southeast Asia were quickly trumped by reports that prices on larger cargoes remained in the US$370s/mt FOB.

Regional buyers looking to take product immediately may have pushed the smaller sales through quickly, sources speculated. Sellers were unsure what the May 1 announcement would mean for their ability to sell prompt tons and got rid of what they could, when they could. Buyers, on the other hand, got urea at prices closer to the global market price instead of the much higher price dictated by the Chinese domestic market.

Middle East

Reports of sales during the week moved prices up to $330/mt FOB. Oman and Saudi Arabia started out the week selling material in the mid-$320s/mt FOB, sources said. By the week’s end, Fertiglobe sold UAE urea at $330/mt FOB. Sources could name neither the buyers nor destinations of the cargoes.

The sales eased pressure on what sources had called growing pressure on warehouse storage facilities in the Arab Gulf, even though the deals did not fully zero out the reserves.

Higher prices in the Arab Gulf came from sources calculating prices back from NOLA. Expectations now have the price remaining firm – or growing stronger – for at least another 30-40 days.

Industry Tidbits