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Sulphur Fertilizer Market and Price Analysis

Within agriculture, sulphur is consumed as a plant nutrient, but most importantly as an intermediate in the production of phosphoric acid, and therefore for phosphate fertilizers. Almost all sulphur is used in the production of sulphuric acid, which is the most widely used inorganic chemical worldwide, and plays a key role in many industrial and metallurgical processes as well as its uses in agriculture.

Key facts about the sulphur fertlizer market
  • Around 68 million tonnes of sulphur is produced annually, of which around 99% is a by-product of oil and gas production and refining. Sulphur is produced in all world regions, but half of all production takes place in the Middle East and North America.
  • Around 36 million tonnes of sulphur is traded annually, accounting for 53% of total sulphur production. The Middle East accounts for over 40% of exports. Eastern Asia (predominantly China) and Africa each account for more than 10 million tonnes of imports.
  • Almost 60% of all sulphur is used to produce fertilizer, ranging from phosphates, ammonium and potassium sulphates, complex fertilizers and sulphur bentonite. The production of phosphoric acid is the single largest application, accounting for over 45% of sulphur demand.
  • Because sulphur is as by-product of the oil and gas industry, pricing can be extremely volatile, ranging from a high of $225 per tonne to a low of $60 over a 25-month period for the delivered price for granular product into China.
  • Expansions in oil and gas refining capacity has led to a surfeit of sulphur, at a time where key markets, such as phosphate fertilizers, have been experiencing low growth rates, which have challenged sulphur producers both on price and supply management, raising issues around blocking sulphur in certain regions.

Key themes affecting the sulphur fertilizer market

Almost all sulphur is produced as a by-product of the oil and gas industry, and as such it can present a disposal issue for producers. The demand drivers for oil and gas are not closely linked to the demand drivers for the industries in which sulphur is consumed, frequently leading to periods of under- or over-supply in sulphur. Climate change is driving decarbonisation of the global economy, which in the longer term should lead to the stabilisation and possible reduction in the production of fossil fuels and therefore sulphur from those sources. Demand for sulphur and sulphuric acid in both agricultural and industrial applications will continue to increase, with potential cost implications in those markets if a structural deficit in sulphur supply evolves. In the meantime, environmental pressures in sulphur producing regions mean producers are increasingly reluctant to pour sulphur into block at times of over-supply and low prices, not least because the crushed lump sulphur reclaimed from block is increasingly difficult to sell due to handling issues. When balanced or in surplus, the price of sulphur tends to mostly reflect the handling and logistics costs of supply. As such, price volatility is significant as the product moves from deficit to surplus and given this dependence on the oil and gas sector, the sulphur industry and its customers face many challenges and uncertainty going forward. IHS Markit, through its detailed analysis of the oil and gas, industrial and fertilizer markets is uniquely placed to provide insight into the development of sulphur markets.

International Sulphur prices
201720182019
Sulphur cfr China (all forms) spot$/t73-225100-19240-140
Sulphur cfr North Africa contract (quarterly)$/t68-120120-17552135
Sulphur fob Vancouver spot$/t73-190115-16537-129
Sulphuric acid cfr Chile contract (annual)$/t 100% H2SO427-3363-75130-140
Sulphuric acid cfr North Africa contract (quarterly)$/t 100% H2SO418-4035-8136-95

Solutions

At IHS Markit we offer market-leading sulphur and sulphuric acid fertilizer information solutions via our globally recognised Fertecon service. Specialists in offering comprehensive data and analysis across the global fertilizer market, with current, short-term and long-term solutions to support all operational needs in your organisation.

Current price reports
Weekly Report

Keep abreast of the markets for sulphur and sulphuric acid, spotting new opportunities with our weekly market report. Key benefits include reliable price discovery, news on key developments, and trade statistics and news alerts.

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Short-term price forecasts
Monthly Futures Report

Plan for the mid-term and make smarter investment decisions with our sulphur market intelligence. Key benefits include global market overview, major company news, and trade statistics alerts.

Long-term market outlooks
Quarterly Market Reports

Steer your business in the right strategic direction with our in-depth quarterly report on the sulphur market, forecasting out 10 years. Key benefits include comprehensive market analysis, price, supply demand and trade forecasts, and coverage of hot topics.

Bespoke solutions
API and Data Feeds

Pricing, supply-demand and forecasts on the sulphur market delivered directly to your organisation to support centralised models and trading systems used by team members across your business.

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One-time Data Exports

Over three decades of historical sulphur pricing, production and trade data across all core nutrients available to purchase to support your organisation with strategic analysis and economic modelling.

Consulting

Consulting services spanning all your needs in the fertilizer markets, from long-term forecasting beyond what is available in our subscription services to market studies for financial investments reviewing everything from market forecasts to competitor intelligence.

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