Economic impact in Sask. unclear as fertilizer, wheat prices soar amid war in Ukraine

Saskatchewan

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture says it's unclear how the invasion of Ukraine is impacting Saskatchewan's economy as wheat and fertilizer commodity prices soar.

Wheat and fertilizer prices are soaring amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Shannon VanRaes/Bloomberg)

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture says it's unclear how the invasion of Ukraine is impacting Saskatchewan's economy as wheat and fertilizer commodity prices soar.

Wheat futures surged to $10 a bushel on Tuesday – the highest price in 14 years.

Shares in Saskatoon-headquartered Nutrien Ltd., the largest fertilizer producer in the world, keep rising amid market worries that the war could exacerbate a global supply shortage.

On Wednesday morning, Nutrien shares were trading at $110.99 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

"The Ministry of Agriculture continues to monitor the situation in Ukraine and any disruptions it may have on international commodity markets, prices and supply chains," the ministry said in a statement.

In 2021, Saskatchewan exported $4.1 million in goods to Ukraine — mostly represented by agricultural machinery and parts — while the province imported $1.3 million in goods and services from Ukraine, according to the province.

Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said high global prices provide even more incentive for farmers to boost production.

"The only way to do it is to actually buy more fertilizers. But fertilizer prices are really expensive. They were already expensive before the conflict … right now prices are quite prohibitive," he said.

Nutrien shares have climbed 55 per cent year-over-year, as global demand for fertilizer already exceeded supply prior to this week's geopolitical crisis. However, markets fear the supply shortage could get worse, as Russia and Ukraine are major fertilizer-producing countries.

Charlebois said there's potential for market growth for Nutrien.

"If Nutrien doesn't recognize that opportunity, I don't think it's going to be much of a difference other than seeing the stock price go up, which could benefit stockholders," he said.

Nutrien declined an interview request, but said it increased potash production by almost one million tonnes in 2021 in response to market demand, and that it will increase production of potash and nitrogen this year.

Russian fertilizer companies have so far been spared of western sanctions. Nations are being careful not to impact global food supply chains, Charlebois said.

"I think there is some sensitivity toward the agrifood sector recognizing that perhaps sanctions targeting the agrifood sector specifically would make matters worse for everyone, including people in North America and Canada."

With files from Radio-Canada and The Canadian Press

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