Jury Still Out on Fertilizer Merger

One year after the merger of fertilizer giants Agrium and Potash Corp., the jury remains out on the impact on the Prairie agricultural sector.

“I don't want to pretend to call it a non-event because there's always a concern about consolidation. All I can say at the moment is it doesn't have any obvious impact,” said Ray Redfern, president and founder of Redfern Farm Services in southwestern Manitoba.

After clearing various regulation hurdles, Agrium and the Potash Corp. merged at the start of 2018 to become the world’s largest fertilizer company, Nutrien. Now a year later, Nutrien has begun to settle into its new role in the agriculture world and according to retailers and producers, it hasn’t really shaken things up all that much.

For independent crop input retailer, Redfern – which previously sourced products from both Potash Corp. and Agrium – the merger has resulted in little change, although Redfern himself admitted an increasing amount of his buying is now occurring through Nutrien directly.

For producers, it’s still more of a wait and see situation, given that many of the new changes within Nutrien are still ongoing, said Todd Lewis, president of the Saskatchewan Agriculture Producers Association (APAS).

“There were some concerns I know in some areas with the amalgamations that there was going to be lost capacity, as far as delivery opportunities and picking up fertilizer,” Lewis said.

Lewis said he expects producers will find out this spring when they go to pick up fertilizer if the changes helped to improve wait times for pickups.

There remains concern from producers, however, if Nutrien will follow through with all of the promises it made before the merger, according to Lewis.

“A lot (of the news) about (Nutrien) in the media is about the head office here in Saskatchewan. I think Saskatchewan producers see that and kind of wonder about some of the promises that were made, if that wasn't being kept, are some of the other ones at risk as well?” he said.

Prior to the merger, Nutrien had initially promised it would make Saskatoon its head office location, as Saskatoon had been the head office of Potash Corp. Since the merger though, almost all of the company’s executives have been based out of the Calgary office instead.

Meanwhile, in an unexpected move, Nutrien shut down phosphate production at its facility in Redwater, Alta – the only such plant in Canada – and instead shifted all of those operations to the U.S. as a cost-cutting move.

In the wake of that move, Redfern said independent retailers were warned by Nutrien that they might have to ship the product in from the U.S. themselves. However, for retailers in Manitoba, like Redfern Farm Services, Nutrien has said it will still distribute phosphate product at its facility near Portage la Prairie.

Source: DePutter Publishing Ltd.

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