Brazil’s urea imports during the year-to-November have hit an all-time record of 6.36m. tonnes owing to good ag economics, as well as a complete loss of domestic production.
According to the latest customs statistics, Brazil’s year-to-date imports are 30% higher than the 4.88m. tonnes imported during the same period of 2019. The year-to-date total is already nearly 1m. tonnes higher than total 2019 imports, which were at 5.59m. tonnes.
The Latin American country imported around 887,000t in November, the second highest total seen in 2020, and 39% higher than November 2019 when imports were at 636,000t.
The highest volume imported by Brazil this year to date was in September when 898,000t arrived to the country, this owing to a price rally that began in mid-July and concluded mid-August with business taking place in the $280s pt cfr.
While imports to Brazil were inevitably going to be higher following the closure of domestic production sites in recent years, they have surged owing to good farm economics this year.
In January this year, Petrobras decided to idle its loss-making ammonia/urea complex (640,000t/y prilled urea capacity) at Araucaria, Parana State. All three of the company’s urea units remain closed.
While, the Fafen-BA, Bahia and Fafen-SE, Sergipe units were also previously mothballed, with the last of the units ceasing production in January 2019.
An increase in buying activity is usually expected towards the end of the year, ahead of the Safrinha season, however, Brazilian buyers remain in a strong position in terms of existing stocks. It therefore remains to be seen whether December imports will take the total to 7m. tonnes for the year.
Of note, cfr values have only moderately responded to the recent run up in global fob values. Indeed, North African fob values reflect closer to $300pt cfr equivalent, $15-20pt above offers last week into Brazil. Importers continue to benefit from the flow of contract cargoes from the Middle East, the increased volume of Russian product and with sizeable volumes imported each month from Iran.
By Neha Popat, Nitrogen Market Reporter