Saskatchewan

Sask. fertilizer company ramping up potash production in response to Ukraine crisis

Nutrien says it will hire more workers for its network of low-cost potash mines in the Saskatchewan as it prepares for a large increase in production capability.

Nutrien says it will hire more workers for its network of potash mines in Sask.

Saskatoon-based Nutrien produces and distributes about 27 million tonnes of potash, nitrogen and phosphate products worldwide. (Trevor Bothorel/CBC)

Canadian fertilizer company Nutrien Ltd. says it is increasing potash production capability in 2022 by nearly 1 million tonnes compared to previous expectations.

Nutrien announced the move Monday, adding that it will hire more workers across its network of potash mines in Saskatchewan this year. It did not specify how many. 

The Saskatoon-headquartered company said its decision to ramp up production capability to around 15 million tonnes is a response to the uncertainty of potash supply from eastern Europe amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"Our thoughts and sympathies are with those impacted by the crisis in Ukraine and we hope for an immediate de-escalation of this conflict," said Nutrien interim president and CEO, Ken Seitz, in a news release. 

"The impacts of this conflict extend beyond eastern Europe as a disruption in supply of key agriculture, fertilizer and energy commodities could have implications for global food security."

Nutrien said its 2022 production is expected to increase by nearly 20 per cent compared to 2020, and will account for more than 70 per cent of global production added over this period. 

Potash is primarily used in fertilizer. Global demand for fertilizer already exceeded supply prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with Nutrien seeing a 55 per cent climb in shares year-over-year prior to the geopolitical crisis. 

Since the beginning of March, markets have been jittery about the supply shortage potentially getting worse, because Russia and Ukraine are major fertilizer-producing countries.

In an email statement to CBC News earlier this month, federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said she is keeping a close eye on the situation.

"Fertilizer prices are already high and the war is an additional element of pressure which could have further impact on the input costs," Bibeau said. "We are monitoring the situation very closely."

Nutrien added that it expects a small increase in its 2022 capital expenditures. It will provide a further update in its first-quarter 2022 earnings release in May. 

The company produces and distributes about 27 million tonnes of potash, nitrogen and phosphate products worldwide.

It is also the world's largest potash producer, with over 20 million tonnes of capacity at six potash mines in Saskatchewan. It also has two large phosphate mines in the U.S., and is the world's third-largest producer of nitrogen.

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