India's phosphates fertilizer production hit an 18-month low in April in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown. But DAP sales to consumers held up, buoyed by strong fundamentals.
DAP production in India fell to 260,000t last month, its lowest since November 2018 and a 38pc fall on the year. This followed a series of supply reductions and plant closures across the country, following the implementation of lockdown measures from 25 March. Major producers IFFCO, Deepak, PPL, CIL, Fact, GSFC, RCF, Smartchem, Zuari and Greenstar all cut output in April.
The closures had a knock-on effect on shipments of phosphoric acid, a key raw material for DAP production, but output in May is set to return closer to past levels.
Indian urea production bucked the trend last month, rising by 11pc on the year to 1.8mn t. But supply of NP/NPKs and SSP fell by 27pc to 394,000t and by 6.9pc to 239,000t, respectively (see chart).
Record crops drive sales
DAP sales continued to surge ahead of last year's levels, with solid agricultural fundamentals fuelling demand.
Sales rose to 297,000t in April from 173,000t a year earlier, the latest provisional government data show.
And this trend has continued into May, with offtake set to remain strong through the kharif season, which runs from April to September.
DAP sales for this month had totalled 330,000t as of 17 May, outstripping the 303,000t sold in the whole of May last year.
Fertilizer sales in India typically gather pace through the spring ahead of the kharif season, peaking in July-August with the onset of the monsoon season. Sales were solid through the September-March rabi season, with DAP sales in 2019-20 outstripping the year before by a third at 6.53mn t.
This momentum is set to continue through kharif season, with the agricultural ministry forecasting a 101.7mn t kharif rice crop this season, would would be the second highest on record. This follows record wheat and rice rabi crops in 2019-20, totalling 107.18mn t and 16.24mn t, respectively.
The latest weather forecasts predict a solid monsoon season in the third quarter, with June-September rainfall likely to be normal.
DAP stocks rise despite output fall
India's inventories of DAP fertilizer increased by a net 225,000t last month, with imports and output outstripping sales to farmers.
Imports stood at 262,000t in April, putting them at around half of year-earlier receipts, but a notable rise from 44,000t in March.
The increase buoyed net inventories, despite the overall drop in production. Distributors typically bolster DAP stocks in April-June ahead of peak offtake in the second half of the year. The rise contrasts with a fall of 680,000t in the April-March 2019-20 fertilizer year, according to Argus calculations.
May and June DAP arrivals are likely to further reduce pressure on stock levels, with 571,000t and 840,000t scheduled to arrive respectively.