THE AFTERMATH of the extensive fire at a Nutrien Ag Solutions fertiliser warehouse on Friday leaves Western Australian growers uncertain as they prepare to begin seeding in the months ahead.
A fire broke out at the Kwinana facility on Friday at 1.30pm with the WA Department of Fire and Emergency crews evacuating 11 people from the Nutrien site.
It prompted a HAZMAT warning for surrounding suburbs, with residents urged to remain inside and close windows and doors.
Nutrien Ag Solutions has not commented on the amount of fertiliser stored at the site or the scale of damage to the facilities.
It is believed that due to the amount of damage, the site will not be operational for some time.
The fire was expected to have the greatest impact on existing Nutrien customers with fertiliser stored at the site or due to come into the facility.
Nutrien Ag Solutions region manager west Andrew Duperouzel said the bulk fertiliser site was holding granular products at the time of the fire.
“Nutrien remains focused on ensuring our products continue to be dispatched to our farmer customers across the state in a safe and timely manner,” Mr Duperouzel said in a statement.
“We are assessing the damage to our site and working closely with Fremantle Ports to confirm new access routes, adjusted shipping schedules and alternate storage solutions to ensure we minimise any impact to our supply chain.
“It’s business as usual for Nutrien’s other storage depots across Western Australia, so we are still receiving and dispatching product from our other locations including Geraldton, Esperance, Albany and Henderson.
“Our liquid Bulk N fertiliser storage and chemical manufacturing (Genfarm) facilities were not impacted by this fire incident.
Mr Duperouzel encouraged customers “to talk to their local branch about their input needs”.
WA Grains Group chair Alastair Falconer said he was unsure what effect the fire would have on the upcoming season.
“There is no doubt it will have an impact, but just what that is I am not sure yet,” Mr Falconer said.
“I think there will be some issues with pickups.”
Mr Falconer said growers have either completed or are in the process of contracting their fertiliser needs for the upcoming winter crop.
“I think most people would have their orders done and a lot of people would have contracts signed up,” Mr Falconer said.
“We’re now going into the collection phase, and I’d say the majority pick up in March or April.”
Industry sources have told Grain Central that, at this stage, they did not believe the fire will have a major bearing on fertiliser prices for WA growers.
They say fertiliser from other Nutrien sites, as well as from the other two suppliers in the area, CBH Group and CSBP, could cover losses.
With fertiliser prices declining towards the end of 2023, numerous growers likely seized the opportunity to secure contracts during that period.
“The prices came off a little bit last year, but they are starting to go up a bit now probably because of the issues with the Red Sea,” Mr Falconer said.
“We are seeing that particularly with nitrogen.”
High fire risk
Large sections of western WA are currently experiencing heatwave conditions, with temperatures over 40 degrees recorded in the Kwinana region on Friday.
Districts in the south-west are also at a high or extreme risk of fire.
Mr Falconer said the hot temperatures came at a time when parts of WA had very little rainfall.
“It is probably not hotter than normal, but it is drier which makes it feel worse.
“We haven’t had any really good rain…since November.”
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