International prices for fertiliser have reached their highest levels ever, according to a key business and market intelligence company.

CRU Group, a UK-based company concerned with market information for mining, metals and fertiliser, said this week that its fertiliser price index had reached a figure of 377.

This comfortably surpasses the previous record high for the index of 360 recorded in 2008. The index stretches back as far as 2003.

Data source: CRU Group
Data source: CRU Group

Since the beginning of this year, the index has increased by 30%, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine cited as a key cause.

According to CRU Group, the index takes in data for nitrogen, potash and phosphate, all of which have - or are nearing - their individual record prices.

Nitrogen broke its record a number of weeks ago, while potash surpassed its highest prices more recently.

Phosphate is expected to reach record levels in the coming weeks.

According to CRU Group, these prices will continue to increase and peak fertiliser prices "are yet to come".

Chris Lawson, head of fertiliser for CRU Group, explained: "Since the beginning of 2020, nitrogen fertiliser prices have increased fourfold, while phosphate and potash prices over threefold.

"While farmers in developed markets have benefitted from high agricultural commodity prices, helping to partly offset high input prices, 'demand destruction' is increasingly likely due to high prices and supply shortfalls," the market analyst warned.

He noted that Russian is a key exporter of the three products referenced in the price index and, while trade with the country has not stopped completely, it has slowed down considerably as part of the international response to its invasion of Ukraine.

According to Lawson, a prolonged period of fertiliser underapplication - due to the difficulty in procuring it - will impact tillage yields in the long term, potentially leading to food price inflation.