U.S. panel rejects duties on fertilizers from Russia, Trinidad and Tobago

Signage is seen outside of the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 31, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

WASHINGTON, July 18 (Reuters) - The U.S. International Trade Commission revoked hefty anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on urea ammonium nitrate fertilizers from Russia and Trinidad and Tobago on Monday, concluding that those imports did not hurt American producers.

The panel's vote may help ease shortages and price increases for fertilizers brought on by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, both major fertilizer exporters. It also marks a rare trade reprieve for Moscow amid tightening Western sanctions and other economic pressure over the nearly five month-old Ukraine conflict.

The decision cancels recently imposed U.S. combined anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties of up to 132.6% on Russian urea nitrate fertilizer solutions and 113.5% on such imports from Trinidad and Tobago.

The Commerce Department announced the final duty rates on June 21 as part of an investigation launched in June 2021 after a petition from CF Industries Nitrogen of Deerfield, Illinois.

"This comes as a welcome relief," National Corn Growers Association President Chris Edgington said in a statement. "We have been sounding the alarms and telling the ITC commissioners that tariffs will drive up input prices to even more unaffordable levels for farmers and cripple our supply. I am so glad they listened."

The commission said that all five commissioners voted to reject the tariffs on the non-injury finding. But, in March 2021, nearly a year before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the panel determined that phosphate fertilizer imports from Russia and Morocco injured U.S. producers, locking in anti-subsidy duties for five years.

'UNLEVEL' FIELD

In 2021, the United States imported $262.6 million worth of urea ammonium nitrate fertilizers from Russia and $231.1 million from Trinidad and Tobago, according to the Commerce Department. Urea ammonium nitrate is used in liquid fertilizers.

CF Industries (CF.N) Chief Executive Officer Tony Will said in a statement that he was disappointed in the panel's decision after the Commerce Department found "unfair trade practices from state-subsidized entities" in Russia and Trinidad and Tobago.

"Unfortunately, this outcome will perpetuate an unlevel playing field for a domestic industry that has invested billions of dollars in the U.S. to ensure American farmers have a reliable source of UAN fertilizer," Will said.

Had the commission found that U.S. fertilizer producers were being injured by the imports from Russia and Trinidad and Tobago, the duties would have been locked in for five years.

There are growing warnings that sky-high prices for fertilizers are curtailing their use, reducing crop yields and potentially leading to food shortages around the world. read more

In the United States alone, fertilizer bills are expected to jump 12% this year, after rising 17% in 2021, according to data from the American Farm Bureau Federation and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

U.S. sanctions have disrupted sales of fertilizer and crops from Russia, prompting many Western banks and traders to steer clear of Russian supplies, while shipping firms are avoiding the Black Sea region due to safety concerns.

The U.S. Treasury Department last week had sought to clarify that transactions to facilitate Russian food and fertilizer exports would not breach Washington's sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine. read more

The Russian anti-dumping duties ranged from 8.16% for Akron PAO (AKRN.MM) to 23.98% for Nevinnomyssky Azot to 122.93% for KuybyshevAzot PAO (KAZT.MM).

Reporting by David Lawder and Tim Ahmann; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Paul Simao

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.