Farmers face tough 2023 as fertiliser prices stay high

Farmers may be forced to spend as much as £628 million extra on nitrogen and phosphate fertilisers made using gas during 2023

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By George Smeeton

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Farmers may be forced to spend as much as £628 million extra on nitrogen and phosphate fertilisers made using gas during 2023, finds analysis by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU). [1]

Although day ahead gas prices have fallen slightly, they remain high and so do the prices of fertilisers which require a lot of energy to make or even use gas as an ingredient. Previous ECIU analysis [2] found that farmers paid an extra £760 million for fertiliser over the course of 2021 and 2022 due to high gas prices, suggesting that they could be paying an extra £1.1 billion for fertilisers from 2021-2024 due to these high prices.

The latest fertiliser price data shows that farmers are entering 2023 continuing to face extremely high prices for high-carbon fertilisers made using gas. Global fertiliser prices [3] peaked in March-May 2022 around the time of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, then fell back over the summer. But in late 2022/early 2023 they have shown little response so far to falling gas prices.

Commenting, Matt Williams, land use analyst at ECIU said: “Farmers are staring down the barrel of another tough year. The price of fertilisers made from gas remains at historic highs meaning Britain’s farmers could pay hundreds of millions of pounds extra this year compared to more normal prices.

“Government agencies are already warning of a repeat of last year’s summer drought [4]. Helping farm businesses survive and protecting the UK’s food security will mean supporting farmers. Boosting access to low-carbon alternative fertilisers, and rewarding them for restoring trees and hedges that can absorb carbon and hold water will help reduce drought impacts."

Notes to editors:

  1. Analysis:

Fertiliser prices:

Fertiliser use quantities: British Survey of Fertiliser Practice 2021,for%20agricultural%20crops%20and%20grassland

Nitrogen fertilisers

Average price 2020 (across AN UK, AN imported) £216

Average price of AN UK (July) and AN imported (November) £791

Nitrogen use 2020a 888,000 tonnes

Nitrogen use 2023e 929,00 tonnes

Nitrogen spend 2020 £191,808,000

Nitrogen spend 2023 £734,839,000

Difference between nitrogen spend in 2020 and 2023 £543,039,000

Phosphate fertilisers

Average price 2020 (Diammonium phosphate, Triple Super Phosphate) £287

Average November 2023 price of phosphate fertilisers (Diammonium phosphate, Triple Super Phosphate) £819.5

Phosphate use 2020a 166,000 tonnes

Phosphate use whole 2022e 163,000 tonnes

Phosphate spend 2020 £47,642,000

Phosphate spend 2023 £133,578,000

Difference between phosphate spend in 2020 and 2023 £85,936,000

Total 2020 spend £239,450,000

Total 2023 spend £868,417,000

Difference between 2020 spend and 2023 spend £628,967,000

2. ECIU: Two more years of high gas prices could leave British farmers paying £1.1 billion extra for fertilisers:


4. Water security in focus as England faces threat of another summer drought:

    For more information:

    George Smeeton, Head of Communications, ECIU, Tel: 07894 571 153, email: