Inputs Monitor Editor Davis Michaelsen adds his perspective into the happenings of the inputs markets.
The Global Spin, Inaugural Issue
Jan 31, 2014
The Global Spin is a new column I intend to update each week. I present this inaugural issue as this week's blog, simply because there is much to say and I would hate for you to miss it. With all the foul weather and high home heating prices, a distraction on this Friday hits us just right. Look for the Global Spin on your Inputs Monitor each Friday for stories of note from around the world.
Ukraine -- The demonstrations continue in Ukraine and the violence is escalating. Opposition leaders and pro-E.U. journalists have been disappearing, and then reappearing days later after having been questioned and tortured by unnamed assailants who are trying to get at who is financing the opposition. Earlier last week, two demonstration leaders who had disappeared were found in the woods near Kiev, one, Yuriy Verytsky had apparently frozen to death, but both carried the wounds of torture.
A law was enacted on January 16 aimed at repressing free speech and assembly, and has since been repealed. Prime Minister Mykola Azarov has stepped down and many fear the government is unraveling. The 2014 Sochi Olympics will keep Russia busy and behaving, but many fear what could amount to a humanitarian crisis in the weeks following Sochi, and neighboring countries fear an all out assault could lead to civil war and a rush of refugees fleeing Ukraine in search of respite from the potential for violence.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Yanukovych has called in sick. His doctor's note cites acute respiratory illness and high fever as the reason for the President's indefinite leave, but speculation includes a wide range of possibilities.
PotashCorp -- A number of global items of note came up Thursday during a conference call hosted by PotashCorp. The company expects to ship 55-57 million tons of potash worldwide in 2014 and has already noted strong shipments to Latin America and a cautious inventory stance in the United States.
- Trinidad is expected to improve ammonia production to 3.9-4.1 billion cubic feet per day in 2014. Scheduled maintenance at ammonia production facilities has been completed successfully and the outlook is for stable to stronger ammonia production ahead.
- India has 350,000 tons of potash to purchase between now and March in order to fulfill it's 1.2 million ton obligation to Canpotex but new government subsidy policies may heat up demand there for potash, which has lagged nitrogen by a wide margin in Indian fertilizer applications. Very little potash was positioned in India at the start of this year.
- China is expected to increase potash imports as well and PotashCorp CEO Bill Doyle believes China is nearing the end of its domestic potash resources. P&K revivals in India and China -- expected sometime around 2016-'17 -- would excite global demand and encourage potash production. China has noted publicly that one of its main concerns is for domestic food security and in order to add to food stores, they realize sound agronomy and balanced soil nutrition will have to lead the way.
Egypt -- Egypt has made a concentrated effort since 2007 to increase export activity to the United States. That has included nitrogen fertilizer and, like Ukraine, Egypt is a key swing producer, providing UAN solutions in particular to U.S. markets.
Under the previous regime headed by Mohammed Morsi, General Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi was named defense minister by Morsi. It was Sisi who led the charge against Morsi on the peoples' behalf, and it is Sisi who now appears poised to take over leadership of Egypt. The 2011 end of the Arab Spring was expected to mark the start of a more democratic, less militaristic form of government. If Sisi is named President in upcoming elections, efforts to separate the military and the national politic will have come to an end.
But Egypt is at the heart of the struggle between Muslim ideals and western style democracy and the future president, whomever that may be, will have to contend with an elite class looking to restore their former privileges, strong support for the ousted Morsi, terrorist insurgency, public protests for both sides and a forward thinking business community that is anxious to put political struggles behind the pursuit of commerce.
Relations between a Sisi administration and the United States could be tenuous if he is elected as Sisi has noted publicly that he is more than displeased with the response to the turmoil from Obama's office. However, large scale industry including fertilizer production is believed by the majority of Egyptians to be a crucial rung on the ladder to national economic and political success and stability. Sisi has enormous popular support and it is thought that the people of Egypt would embrace Sisi's way forward.
Libya -- The leader of Libyan rebel forces who have taken over eastern crude oil export locations is thought to be losing his grip on the situation and many suspect the number of his militia is well below the 20,000 he claims to have mustered. The people of Libya are anxious to revive their once bustling and profitable oil export industry, but rebels under the leadership of Ibrahim al-Jathran have held three eastern oil export ports blockaded for six months now, slashing Libya's oil export revenues.
Jathran's own followers are now beginning to question his ability to lead and the wisdom of keeping such valuable resources off the global market to make a political point. Most, in fact, question what the point of it all even is.
Jathran had agreed on December 10, 2013 to open the ports to commerce on Dec. 15, but has so far failed to do so, raising the ire of his followers and fueling the efforts of those who wish to restore commerce and export revenues to the North African crude hub.