KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) - India is likely to end its potash “import holiday” earlier than planned following positive preliminary meteorological forecasts of favourable monsoon rains and an expected rise in agricultural sowing.
According to government officials, India had put off annual potash import negotiations, which normally commenced around February, owing to two consecutive droughts across the country, a fall in area under foodgrain sowings, and high carryover stocks of potash.
However, with the first round of meteorological forecasts predicting “normal” monsoon rains, potash import negotiations would need to commence earlier than June, as planned when the ‘import holiday’ was declared earlier this year, the officials said.
The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) had indicated that monsoon precipitation this year was expected to be around 102% to 103% of the long term average (LTA), wherein precipitation ranging between 96% and 104% was considered to be in the normal range.
However, the first official forecast by IMD was expected later this month and government officials said that since most indicators of rainfall and weakening of the El Niño impact were positive, a decision to resume potash imports would be taken soon after official monsoon forecasts were submitted.
But such a decision to resume imports would in any case have to be completed well before June and the beginning of the sowing season, as the normal monsoon rains would end two consecutive drought years and higher agriculture coverage would trigger a rise in potassic fertiliser demand, the officials added.
However, the officials were unwilling to hazard a guess on the volume of import targets for 2016/17, pointing out that the country still had a current carryover stock of around one-million tonnes.
But unofficial indications were that given normal monsoon rains and adequate coverage across the country’s prime agricultural belts, potash imports could range around 3.5-million tonnes for the year, lower than the 5.5-million tonnes negotiated during the previous year, the full volume of which was not purchased in view of drought conditions.