Potash facts

Potash is the common name given to a group of minerals and chemicals containing potassium (K), which is a basic nutrient for plants and an important element of fertilizer. Potash is mostly produced in the form of potassium chloride (KCl), but deposits can have different amounts of potassium, so we often measure and refer to it in terms of potassium oxide (K2O) equivalence, for consistency.

Key facts

  • Potash is primarily used to produce fertilizer
  • Canada is the world’s largest producer and exporter of potash
  • Canada has the world’s largest potash reserves, with 1 billion tonnes of potash (potassium oxide equivalent) or about one-quarter of the world’s reserves

Learn more about potash

Uses

Potash is primarily used as a fertilizer (approximately 95%) to support plant growth, increase crop yield and disease resistance, and intensify water preservation. Small quantities are used in the manufacturing of potassium-bearing chemicals such as:

  • detergents
  • ceramics
  • pharmaceuticals
  • water conditioners
  • alternatives to de-icing salt

Potassium is an important element of the human diet. It is essential for growth and the maintenance of tissues, muscles and organs, as well as the electrical activity of the heart.

Production

Canada produced 20.3 million tonnes of potash in 2017, an increase of 2.4 million tonnes compared to 17.9 million tonnes in 2016.

Canadian production of potash (potassium chloride), 2008–2017 (p)

Text version

This bar chart shows Canada’s annual mine production of potash from 2008 to 2017. Production was 17.3 million tonnes in 2008. It dropped to its lowest level in 2009 at 7.2 million tonnes, peaked in 2015 at 18.8 million tonnes and ended 2017 at 20.3 million tonnes.

International context

Find out more about potash production on an international scale:

World production of potash (potassium chloride), by country, 2016 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 Canada 17,671 29.2%
2 Russia 10,800 17.9%
3 Belarus 10,100 16.7%
4 China 7,470 12.4%
- Other countries 14,389 23.8%
Total   60,430 100.0%

Global potash production was estimated at 60.4 million tonnes in 2016. Canada is the world’s largest potash producer, accounting for 29% of the world’s total in 2016.

Four countries (Canada, Russia, Belarus and China) accounted for more than 75% of the world’s potash production in 2016.

World production of potash (potassium chloride), 2008–2017 (p)

Text version

This bar chart shows the world’s production of potash from 2008 to 2017. Production was 52.1 million tonnes in 2008 and 67.9 million tonnes in 2017.

In 2017, the estimated global reserves of potash were 4.3 billion tonnes (potassium oxide equivalent). Canada had the world’s largest reserves with 1 billion tonnes. The following table shows the nations that lead in potash reserves.

World reserves of potash (potassium oxide equivalent), by country, 2017 (p)
Ranking Country Recoverable ore
(million tonnes)
Potassium oxide equivalent
(million tonnes)
Percentage of total
1 Canada 4,200 1,000 23.3%
2 Russia 3,000 500 11.6%
3 Belarus 3,300 750 17.4%
4 China n/a 360 8.4%
5 Israel n/a 270 6.3%
6 Jordan n/a 270 6.3%
- Other countries n/a 790 18.4%
Total   n/a 4,300 100.0%

Trade

Canada is the world’s largest exporter of potash. In 2017, Canada exported 19 million tonnes of potash, accounting for 39% of the world’s total exports.

Canadian exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2008–2017 (p)

Text version

This bar chart shows Canadian potash exports from 2008 to 2017. Exports were 16.5 million tonnes in 2008 and reached a peak of 17.9 million tonnes in 2015. Exports in 2017 were 19.0 million tonnes.

Three countries (Canada, Russia and Belarus) accounted for more than 75% of the potash traded internationally in 2016.

World exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2016 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 Canada 17,161 37.1%
2 Belarus 9,456 20.4%
3 Russia 8,700 18.8%
4 Germany 3,210 6.9%
5 Israel 3,025 6.5%
- Other countries 4,711 10.2%
Total   46,263 100.0%

World exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2008–2017 (p)

Text version

This bar chart shows world potash exports from 2008 to 2017. Exports were 40.2 million tonnes in 2008, peaked at 49.6 million tonnes in 2014 and were 53.7 million tonnes in 2017.

Prices

Potash prices have been declining since 2012. Prices stabilized in 2016 at around US$200 per tonne, then increased slightly from the second half of 2017 to reach US$207 at the end of 2017.

Potassium chloride prices, standard, contract, f.o.b Vancouver, bi-weekly, 2008–2017

Text version

This line chart shows bi-weekly potassium chloride prices in U.S. dollars per tonne on standard, contract, and free on board at Vancouver terms from 2008 to 2017. The price was $190 in January 2008. It then trended upward to reach $694 in February 2009. It started falling in June 2009 to $310 in January 2011 before bouncing back to $465 in December 2012, after which it continued on a downward trend to $207 by December 2017.

Notes and sources

(p) preliminary

f.o.b. free on board

Totals may be different because of rounding.

Production

  • Canadian mine production of potash (potassium chloride), 2008–2017 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada

International context

  • World production of potash (potassium chloride), by country, 2016 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada; International Fertilizer Industry Association; Producers’ statistics and annual reports
  • World production of potash (potassium chloride), 2008–2017 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada; International Fertilizer Industry Association
  • World reserves of potash (potassium oxide equivalent), by country, 2017 (p)
    • Mineral Commodity Summaries 2018, U.S. Geological Survey

Trade

  • Canadian exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2008–2017 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • World exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2016 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada; International Fertilizer Industry Association; Producers’ statistics and annual reports
  • World exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2008–2017 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada; International Fertilizer Industry Association

Prices

  • Potassium chloride prices, standard, contract, f.o.b. Vancouver, bi-weekly, 2008–2017
    • FERTECON