Language selection

Search

Potash facts

Potash is the common name given to a group of minerals and chemicals that contain potassium (chemical symbol K), which is a basic nutrient for plants and an important ingredient in fertilizer. Most potash is produced as potassium chloride (KCl). However, we often measure and refer to it in terms of potassium oxide (K2O) equivalence for consistency because deposits can have different percentages of potassium.

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 1.1 billion tonnes of potash (potassium oxide equivalent).

Learn more about potash

Uses

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

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

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

Production

Canada produced an estimated 22 million tonnes of potash in 2020, an increase of 1.0 million tonnes from 2019.

Consult a map of producing Canadian mines

Canadian production of potash (potassium chloride), 2011–2020 (p)

bar chart
Text version

This bar chart shows Canada’s annual mine production of potash from 2011 to 2020. Production was 17.7 million tonnes in 2011, then decreased to 15.1 million tonnes in 2012 before steadily increasing to 18.8 million tonnes in 2015. It then decreased slightly to 17.9 million tonnes in 2016 before increasing to 22.7 million tonnes in 2018. Production in 2019 decreased to 20.9 million tonnes but rebounded to 22.0 million tonnes in 2020 (p).

International context

Find out more about potash production on an international scale.

World production of potash (potassium chloride), by country, 2020 (p)
Ranking Country Tonnes (thousands) Percentage of total
1 Canada 21,975 31.8%
2 Russia 13,816 20%
3 Belarus 12,205 17.6%
4 China 7,195 10.4%
5 Israel 3,830 5.5%
- Other countries 10,158 14.7%
Total   69,179 100.0%

Global potash production was estimated at almost 69.2 million tonnes in 2020. Canada is the world’s largest potash producer, accounting for 32% of the world’s total in 2020.

Four countries (Canada, Russia, Belarus and China) accounted for approximately 80% of the world’s potash production in 2020.

World production of potash (potassium chloride), 2011–2020 (p)

bar chart
Text version

This bar chart shows the world’s production of potash from 2011 to 2020. Production was 54.9 million tonnes in 2011 and increased steadily to 69.2 million tonnes in 2020.

In 2020, the global reserves of potash were estimated at more than 3.6 billion tonnes (potassium oxide equivalent). Canada had the largest reserves with 1.1 billion tonnes. The following table shows the leading potash reserves by country.

World reserves of potash (potassium oxide equivalent), by country, 2020 (p)
Ranking Country Recoverable ore
(million tonnes)
Potassium oxide equivalent
(million tonnes)
1 Canada 4,500 1,100
2 Belarus 3,300 750
3 Russia N/A 600
4 China N/A 350
5 United States 970 220
6 Germany N/A 150
- Other countries N/A 412
Total   N/A >3,600

Trade

Canada is the world’s largest exporter of potash. In 2020, Canada exported 22 million tonnes of potash, accounting for 39% of the world’s total exports.

Canadian exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2011–2020 (p)

bar chart
Text version

This bar chart shows Canadian potash exports from 2011 to 2020. Exports were 17 million tonnes in 2011 and reached a minor peak of 17.9 million tonnes in 2015. A slight decrease to 16.0 million tonnes in 2016 was followed by an increase to a 10-year peak of 21.9 million tonnes in 2018. Exports then decreased to 19.3 million tonnes in 2019. In 2020, Canada exported 22.0 million tonnes.

Three countries (Canada, Belarus and Russia) accounted for 79% of the potash traded internationally in 2019.

World exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2020 (p)
Ranking Country Tonnes (thousands) Percentage of total
1 Canada 21,961 39%
2 Belarus 11,758 21%
3 Russia 10,840 19%
4 Germany 3,135 6%
5 Israel 3,543 6%
- Other countries 4,656 8%
Total   55,893 100%

World exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2011–2020 (p)

bar chart
Text version

This bar chart shows world potash exports from 2011 to 2020. Exports were at 44.2 million tonnes in 2011 and decreased to 36.9 million tonnes in 2012. Exports steadily increased to 49.6 million tonnes in 2014, but then decreased again to 46.4 million tonnes in 2015. Exports increased to a 10-year peak of 53.1 million tonnes in 2018 before decreasing to 49.9 million tonnes in 2019. In 2020, world potash exports were 55.9 million tonnes.

Prices

Potash prices were in decline from 2012 until the first half of 2017. In the second half of 2017, prices began to increase, eventually reaching US$275/tonne at the beginning of 2019 before decreasing steadily to about US$200/tonne by the end of 2020.

Potassium chloride prices, 2011–2020

line chart
Text version

This line chart shows monthly potassium chloride prices in US dollars per tonne, free on board (f.o.b.) at Vancouver from 2011 to 2020. Prices averaged US$393 in 2011, increased to a peak of US$495 in early 2012, and then gradually declined to a low of $206 in late 2016. Prices have since increased and were at $266 at the end of 2019. The price decreased from $240 to $202 between January and December 2020.

Notes and sources

(p) preliminary

f.o.b. free on board

Totals may be different because of rounding.

Production

  • Canadian production of potash (potassium chloride), 2011–2020 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada

International context

  • World production of potash (potassium chloride), by country, 2020 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada; CRU
  • World production of potash (potassium chloride), 2011–2020 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
    • CRU
  • World reserves of potash (potassium oxide equivalent), by country, 2020 (p)
    • Mineral Commodity Summaries 2021, U.S. Geological Survey

Trade

  • Canadian exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2011–2020 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • World exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2020 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada; CRU
  • World exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2011-2020 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada; CRU

Prices

  • Potassium chloride prices, 2011–2020
    • f.o.b. Vancouver
    • The World Bank
Report a problem on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: