Sulfate of potash (SOP) is a specialty fertilizer that provides valuable potassium and sulfur nutrients while avoiding the unwanted chloride associated with muriate of potash (MOP). SOP does not contain the chloride found in regular potash that can burn root systems or have other negative effects on crops. This means SOP is in high demand as a fertilizer for high-value chloride sensitive crops, including tobacco, fruit trees and crops that require greater sulfur nutrition such as garlic, mustard and cabbage. The total demand for SOP is approximately 6 million short tons per year. The table below highlights the range of plants that benefit from SOP.
According to the Agriculture and Applied Economics Association, specialty crops generate on average more revenue by a factor of 10 times as compared to commodity crops such as corn. This means if 3.7% of land is used for specialty crops, these crops will on average produce 37.0% of revenue for the grower. For this reason, many farmers focus on this higher value segment of the market, which in turn drives SOP demand as well.
As the largest producer of tobacco, fruits and vegetables, China represents the greatest source of SOP demand globally and accounts for more than 40% of total demand. Other emerging market economies also represent significant sources of SOP demand. This includes the developing economies of Brazil and India. As food preferences and the level of income available for high quality crops increase, this trend will continue to generate demand for SOP in these regions of the world.