WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Sept 16 (Reuters) - North American potash producers were left with a record low inventory of 825,000 tonnes of the fertilizer at the end of August, an RBC Capital Markets analyst said on Tuesday.
The month-end inventory was down 21 percent from the end of July and 33 percent below last year's level, said Fai Lee in a research note, quoting industry data.
"Given tight potash supply conditions and strong agricultural fundamentals, we expect potash prices to remain at elevated levels," Lee wrote.
Prices for potash basis Vancouver approached $800 per tonne at the end of August, according to Fertecon Ltd data posted on the website of Potash Corp of Saskatchewan (POT.TO), the largest producer of the mineral.
A year ago, potash spot prices were under $200 a tonne.
Record prices for grain have spurred fertilizer sales as farmers try to maximize yields, and miners of potash have not been able to keep up with demand.
The inventory data is collected for subscribers by the Fertilizer Institute. Potash Corp posted a summary graph on its website showing inventories were down 40 percent from the five-year average.
"The latest inventory data is consistent with industry reports that recent visitors to the Port of Vancouver have indicated the potash warehouses were 'effectively empty'," Lee wrote.
Canadian producers jointly export potash to offshore markets through Canpotex, owned by Potash Corp, Mosaic Co (MOS.N) and Agrium Inc (AGU.TO).
The Belarussian Potash Company, Canpotex's biggest competitor, is also reported to have little inventory in its warehouses, Lee said.
Potash Corp shares were up 1.5 percent to C$166.41 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Tuesday, while Agrium was down 25 Canadian cents at C$78.39 in Toronto, and Mosaic was down 85 cents percent at $83.35 in New York.
LINK: here ($1=$1.07 Canadian) (Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Peter Galloway)