As populations surge, growers continuously adapt to meet the demands of expanding markets. Keeping track of the latest fertilizer trends directly indicates the ups and downs of global agricultural output.

Market fluctuations and technological breakthroughs are major catalysts in shaping how we grow, distribute, and consume our food.

We’ll dig into these changes and their implications for the present and future of farming practices worldwide.

Understanding the Fertilizer Market

Before we can understand how fertilizer trends are shaping the world, we first need to go over some primary statistics and projections from recent years:

  • Global fertilizer market insights valued the industry at $384.37 billion in 2024, with a projected expansion reaching $543.20 billion by 2030.
  • Rice, wheat, and corn, the main field crops cultivated globally, collectively cover around 38% of the world’s agricultural land.
  • Chemical fertilizers are the most widespread products with a market share of 72%, according to data from 2021.
  • Regarding product form, dry fertilizers dominate the largest share of the market, with a market revenue of $143.9 billion.
  • The agriculture sector is the largest fertilizer consumer, accounting for 33% of the market.

Having covered the basics, let’s look into what fertilizers are and why they are such an integral part of this multi-billion-dollar industry.

Seedlings are growing from fertile soil, environmental concepts

Definition and types of fertilizers

Fertilizers are potent stimulants that bolster soil fertility and crop yields. They are predominantly composed of three vital macronutrients: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), oftentimes alongside other essential elements and amino acids. These components come in various forms, such as anhydrous ammonia, urea, liquid nitrogen, diammonium phosphate (DAP), monoammonium phosphate (MAP), and potash.

Fertilizers are most commonly categorized based on their composition into either inorganic or organic types.

Inorganic products are also often referred to as chemical, mineral, or synthetic fertilizers. They are typically derived from minerals or gasses through chemical processes. While some are artificially manufactured, many are sourced from naturally occurring minerals.

Although they contain lower nutrient concentrations compared to synthetic products, organic fertilizers have their benefits. They originate from plant and animal sources, which makes them a more environmentally friendly choice.

Other than these two major categories, fertilizers are additionally classified based on their formulation, application, rate of nutrient release, and more. These products come in many forms, most popularly as either dry granules, gel, or liquid fertilizers.

Fertilizer Market Trends in 2024

The fertilizer market is propelled by the imperative to feed a growing worldwide population, which is expected to surpass nine billion by 2050. While the top players hold only a small slice of the revenue pie, numerous smaller companies dominate the lion’s share.

What are the main trends shaping this surging industry? Let’s take a closer look:

Focus on sustainable farming

Over the last decade, we have witnessed a gradual shift towards sustainability in all industries, including farming.

A notable compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.4% is particularly expected for the organic fertilizer branch from 2024 to 2034. This shifting preference is spurred by heightened consumer awareness of the environmental impacts of synthetic products.

Organic fertilizer growth also has to do with accommodating farmers’ preferences for application methods. In 2021, it was reported that soil application was used in over 62% of fertilization instances. Slow-release gel fertilizers are increasingly in demand because they sustain nutrient levels at the root zone for extended periods, reducing the overall need for fertilization.

Policy shifts are another make-or-break factor that heavily influences the use of certain types of products. Government initiatives, such as subsidies for organic farming and investments in sustainable agriculture, further bolster this trend.

Smart robotic farmer spraying fertilizer on vegetable green plants

Technological advancements

Emerging fertilizer technologies have drastically changed the profile of the agricultural sector as of late. Modern farmers have optimized their operations with the help of robotics and autonomous systems.

Precision agriculture, a cornerstone of Agriculture 4.0, relies on digitalization for enhanced farming management. Software platforms for farm management systems allow growers to monitor real-time data on fertilizer usage and track soil health, for instance.

Mundane tasks such as planting, spraying, harvesting, and weeding have been completely revolutionized with the help of devices such as drones and remote sensors. Robotics applications also extend to plant factories, 3D food printing, and biodiverse farming, with potential in aerial monitoring and automated husbandry.

Shifting consumer preferences

Agriculture fertilizer analysis shows that nitrogen-based products are the most in-demand type, followed by phosphate and potash. Despite this, nitrogen application has fluctuated somewhat over the past few years, while phosphorus and potash usage has been on the rise.

Rising demand for quality crops free from artificial ingredients, hormones, and pesticides is the top preference of modern-day consumers. Products that combine aesthetic appeal with durability and eco-friendly attributes are increasingly preferred by customers.

Both farmers and fertilizer manufacturers are pivoting their strategies to appease the changing dietary preferences of an increasingly environmentally-conscious society. Particularly the shift towards protein-rich diets further intensifies the need for fertilizers to support livestock feed production.

Although dry products continue to dominate the market, water-soluble fertilizers represent a growing segment in the specialty fertilizers sector. This is particularly noticeable in regions with a high production of cereals, grains, fruits, and vegetables. China, for instance, includes water-soluble micronutrients under record filing as part of its plan to reduce the use of pesticides.

Global economic impact

Affordability, currency exchange rates, and investment prospects all play a part in how the fertilizer market operates. Despite increased production in certain regions, uncertainties in trade policies and local tensions threaten to constrain supply chains in the following decade.

China’s dominance in fertilizer exports is reshaping traditional trade flows as global buyers seek alternative suppliers. Conversely, Brazil’s reduction in fertilizer purchases, prompted by drought-induced impacts on corn production, may result in a decrease in global prices.

Moreover, geopolitical tensions, such as those in the Red Sea, could potentially disrupt shipments and consequently destabilize urea prices in the region. China’s phosphate export bans, for instance, have already caused a significant spike in DAP prices worldwide.

Despite these challenges, certain regions are thriving. India’s agricultural sector, for example, is propelling a projected CAGR of 4.9% with an astonishing $473.72 billion market size by 2029. Similarly, the United States (US) has witnessed consecutive years of growth, reflecting a positive trend in domestic fertilizer consumption.

Global Fertilizer Consumption Patterns

Insights into Global Fertilizer Consumption Patterns

Several regional variances and crop-specific demands set fertilizer usage apart across different geographical areas.

One thing is unanimously true, however: there is notable interest in investing in green fertilizer manufacturing and more efficient product use. Combating climate change is the primary factor at the forefront of purchasing decisions for the majority of businesses involved in crop production.

Let’s analyze how consumer behaviors vary in the most prominently involved parts of the global fertilizer economy:

Asia-Pacific dominance

Recent data confirms that the Asia-Pacific countries remain the dominant force in the fertilizer market. This is mainly due to the region’s status as the largest territory for rice production.

Notably, rice cultivation demands nitrogen-rich fertilizers, with grain production accounting for 36% of total fertilizer consumption in Asia in 2017. Additionally, the region’s expansive palm oil industry significantly also contributes to widespread fertilizer usage.

The US tackles infrastructure and price volatility

Over the last few years, the United States has shifted its focus toward fresh investments to expand its local production capacity.

A worrying figure indicates that the country relies on imports for 12% of its nitrogen, 9% of its phosphate, and a staggering 93% of its potash consumption. Agriculture in the States is heavily dependent on these imports, which exposes US fertilizer prices to fluctuations in global supply and demand.

Furthermore, the Mississippi River, vital for transporting imported and domestically manufactured fertilizers across the nation, has encountered historically low water levels due to insufficient rainfall. This, combined with a scarcity of transport vehicles, has severely limited delivery options within the United States.

Middle East and Africa growth

In the Middle East and Africa, market dynamics are projected to witness a steady growth trajectory, with a CAGR of 4% expected from 2023 to 2032.

However, approximately 90% of the fertilizer consumed in Sub-Saharan Africa is imported. Moreover, the low fertilizer usage in the region, at just 22 kilograms per hectare compared to the global average of 146 kilograms per hectare, highlights the urgent need for action.

Beyond supply chain improvements, initiatives such as the World Bank’s fertilizer e-voucher subsidies in countries like Kenya aim to make fertilizers more affordable for local smallholder farmers.

Europe’s rising demand for organic products

Europe’s fertilizer market is switching gears due to the surge in demand for organic products. Recent reports have shown that NPK fertilizer consumption for agriculture in the European Union (EU) is forecast to decrease by 4.6%. The United Kingdom (UK) stands out on the old continent with its advancements in technology and rising disposable incomes driving demand.

Recent developments such as the Haifa Group’s expansion of its Controlled Release Fertilizer facility in France underscore the region’s commitment to technological innovation in agriculture.

Additionally, strategic acquisitions by large companies further highlight the shifting trends in fertilizer production and distribution on the old continent. Yara International ASA notably purchased Finish Ecolan in 2021 in an attempt to bolster its organic fertilizer business.

Price trends and geopolitical impact

As is the case in most industries, product prices are a major concern. Sharp increases were observed from 2020 to 2022 due to the political and social climate across the globe. Moreover, many manufacturers and farmers still remember the historical price spikes in 2008 and 2011–2012.

Even though product costs began to stabilize in 2023, moving closer to pre-pandemic levels, geopolitical risks, trade restrictions, and regional tensions still pose uncertainties for the market.

China’s export restrictions and the potential increase in US natural gas prices in 2024 could impact the availability and cost of fertilizers worldwide. Growers looking to mitigate risks due to such fluctuations are advised to diversify their procurement strategies.

Door opening to new world composition

Market Challenges and Opportunities

Fertilizers are indispensable to food security as their use is directly linked to the sustenance of approximately half the global population. Despite their importance, the fertilizer market faces several challenges that could disrupt its future trajectory.

So, what major hurdles stand in the way of industrial advancements? Let’s take a closer look:

  • Price volatility is the most influential challenge for the agricultural sector. Fertilizer prices have seen a threefold increase since early 2020, creating a significant barrier to food production. This issue is particularly prevalent in regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa where affordability is critical.
  • Supply chain disruptions caused by regional conflicts have led to disturbances in fertilizer exports from key suppliers such as Belarus and Russia. For regions that rely mainly on imported products, these restrictions further strain the availability of essential inputs.
  • If current trends persist, industrialized economies could continue to dominate crop production and the use of agricultural fossil fuels. This geopolitical dominance marginalizes the role of farming in Sub-Saharan countries and exacerbates global inequalities.

So, what does it take to overcome these hurdles? Above all, it takes proactive measures from governments, suppliers, and consumers to tackle these shortcomings.

For instance, achieving better cost-effectiveness requires an emphasis on sustainability in fertilizer production and more efficient application rates from farmers. This can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to environmental sustainability.

Luckily, each of these challenges incentivizes organizations to explore several growth opportunities:

  • There is an urgent need for an extensive realignment of supply chains to ensure that lower-income farmers remain included in the international fertilizer trade. This is critical for maintaining the balance between current production needs and future industry demands.
  • Developing regions such as Africa, in particular, can play a significant role in the restructuring of internal trade barriers and systems. Establishing more self-sufficiency in the face of global market fluctuations is instrumental to preserving local and small producers.
  • Pushing for supportive programs such as private donations, the Black Sea Grain Initiative, and the IFC Global Food Security Platform contribute to mitigating immediate shortages. Although these are currently only effective at the margins, over time, they may become integral to ensuring food security.

Conclusion

The future of the fertilizer industry is at a crossroads. Thankfully, this dynamic juncture presents a unique opportunity for stakeholders to embrace an era of change. One where foresight, adaptability, and innovation could take us on a path toward increased resilience and sustainability.

With the value of primary fertilizer demand having doubled since the pandemic, the industry’s development depends on how these opportunities are dealt with. These shifting fertilizer trends provide us with the opportunity to shape a world that prioritizes both the needs of our global community and the health of our planet.

With combined efforts, the significant challenges the industry faces must be addressed if we are to ensure equitable access to food for all.

References

Posted in Fertilizer Trends

Article by:

Krasimir Bozhurin

Krasimir Bozhurin is the Sales Director at Vaki-Chim LTD. With over a decade of experience in the trade of fertilizers, preparations, and seeds, he has developed extensive expertise in the cultivation of perennial fruit plantations and cereal crops.