Vermiculite prices are set to rise significantly in 2011.
Shortages of certain grades, particularly coarse grades, are
becoming a real issue for European consumers, with key
producers unable to satisfy demand. Price hikes could be as
much as high as 30%, which will be a shock to the system. Many
buyers perceive vermiculite as a low value product, but are now
having to reshape their view.
Demand for vermiculite has been growing, driven in part by
eco-trends for natural materials. The main growing end-uses
include insulation and sound-proofing. Substitute materials
could erode vermiculites market share slightly, but much
of this has already happened where it was an easy option.
New production is coming on to the marketplace from Gulf
Resources operation in Uganda, which was commissioned
mid-year. This will have a capacity of 20,000 tpa of
vermiculite when fully operational, including the coarse grades
required by the market. However, it will not be enough to
satisfy all the demand. Not all vermiculite operations around
the world, including those in the USA and Brazil, produce the
Put together, this means that the price rises will have to be
taken on board to a large extent by consumers if they want the
material. Negotiations are underway for next years
contracts, and they wont be easy.
Iodine pricing is stable, despite an uptick in sales in the
first half of the year. There is plenty of supply and there are
also a number of producers who could be attracted to reopen
should prices run higher, such as operations in Russia,
Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. However, some of the sales
increase in the first half could be restocking of inventories
following the downturn, and sales in the second half of 2010
are not expected to be quite as strong.
Global iodine sales fell by around 10% last year, in the teeth
of the global economic crisis, despite the fact that many of
the markets it serves are more recession proof such
as healthcare, pharmaceuticals, nutrition and biocides. Growth
in Asian markets has been dramatic over the last decade, mainly
because of iodines use in optical polarising film for LCD
Contract prices for the first half of the year have been
$27-30/kg ex-works Chile, whilst list prices are steady at
Chinese dead burned magnesia prices are remaining strong,
despite the fact that many buyers for refractory companies are
proceeding with caution at the higher price levels. However, if
buyers are in the market then they are finding themselves
paying top prices for material. IM has had
reports of 90% MgO dead burned magnesia priced as high as
$500/tonne FOB China, although most indications are closer to
$450/tonne same basis.
Supply for export is still tight with limited availability of
export tonnage. However, only about half of the licences for
export quota for the second half of the year have been used so
far, in early September. This should mean that theoretically
there are export licences still available, but getting hold of
them is another matter.
One of the leading natural soda ash producers, US company, FMC
Corp has announced an off-list price hike of $10/s.ton for its
dense soda ash, which will take effect from 1 November. This
follows a similar increase of $10/s.ton, in early July.
Export demand for US soda ash has been strong in the first half
of the year, and demand has recovered in some parts of the
domestic flat glass industry and in the detergent market.
The companys list prices remain unchanged at $260/s.ton
for bulk soda ash, FOB Westvaco or Granger, Wyoming for dense
material, whilst packaged soda ash is still $325/s.ton for 50lb
bags and $315/s.ton for 200lb bags same basis. The off-list
pricing is negotiated individually by company, but US soda ash
is currently priced at $140-180/s.ton, bulk, ex-works USA for
Meanwhile in Europe, soda ash prices are steady. Competition
from the naturally sourced Turkish material has put a dampener
on any price rises for the second half of the year.
Canadian potash giant, PotashCorp has raised list prices for
the fourth quarter for ex-warehouse/potash centre material in
the USA. The company is looking for a $450-50/s.ton increase
over Q3, and took effect immediately or as contracts permit.
This puts the list prices at $440-450/s.ton for granular
material (60% K2O) loaded in to trucks or
Potash demand in North America has picked in 2010, enough for
PotashCorp to put up prices. Potash prices remained balanced in
the second and third quarter at $390-400/s.ton, after dipping
slightly in the first quarter.
In Europe, prices are steady going into Q4, with no upward
price pressure at the moment according to market sources.
European potash prices are holding at 300-310/tonne
($380-400) for standard grade potash in bulk.
Iodine crystal, 99.5% min, drums, $ per kilo spot &
Chinese DB magnesia, 90% MgO, lump, FOB
Solid lines = top of range; broken lines = bottom of range