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 second largest potash reserves, with 1.2 billion tonnes of potash (potassium oxide equivalent)

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 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 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 22.7 million tonnes of potash in 2018, an increase of 2.4 million tonnes compared to 20.3 million tonnes in 2017, making 2018 a record year for Canadian potash output.

Canadian production of potash (potassium chloride), 2009–2018

Text version

This bar chart shows Canada’s annual mine production of potash from 2009 to 2018. Production was 7.2 million tonnes in 2009. It increased to 15.6 million tonnes in 2010 and 17.7 million tonnes in 2011. Production decreased to 15.1 million tonnes in 2012 before steadily increasing towards a value of 18.8 million tonnes in 2015. It then decreased slightly to 17.9 million tonnes in 2016 before increasing to a 10-year peak of 22.7 million tonnes in 2018.

International context

Find out more about potash production on an international scale:

World production of potash (potassium chloride), by country, 2018 (p)
Ranking Country Tonnes (thousands) Percentage of total
1 Canada 22,680 33.3%
2 Belarus 12,043 17.7%
3 Russia 11,753 17.3%
4 China 7,382 10.8%
- Other countries 14,256 20.9%
Total   68,114 100.0%

Global potash production was estimated at 68.1 million tonnes in 2018. Canada is the world’s largest potash producer, accounting for 33% of the world’s total in 2018.

Four countries (Canada, Belarus, Russia and China) accounted for 80% of the world’s potash production in 2018.

World production of potash (potassium chloride), 2009–2018 (p)

Text version

This bar chart shows the world’s production of potash from 2009 to 2018. Production was 31.1 million tonnes in 2009 and increased steadily towards a value of 67.1 million tonnes in 2018.

In 2018, the estimated global reserves of potash were 5.8 billion tonnes (potassium oxide equivalent). Canada had the second largest reserves with 1.2 billion tonnes. The following table shows the nations that led in potash reserves.

World reserves of potash (potassium oxide equivalent), by country, 2018 (p)
Ranking Country Recoverable ore
(million tonnes)
Potassium oxide equivalent
(million tonnes)
Percentage of total
1 Russia N/A 2,000 34.3%
2 Canada 4,900 1,200 20.6%
3 Belarus 3,300 750 12.9%
4 China N/A 350 6.0%
5 Israel N/A 270 4.6%
6 Jordan N/A 270 4.6%
- Other countries N/A 985 16.9%
Total   N/A 5,825 100.0%

Trade

Canada is the world’s largest exporter of potash. In 2018, Canada exported 21.9 million tonnes of potash, accounting for 41% of the world’s total exports.

Canadian exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2009–2018 (p)

Text version

This bar chart shows Canadian potash exports from 2009 to 2018. Exports were 6.8 million tonnes in 2009 and reached a peak of 17.9 million tonnes in 2015 before a slight decrease to 16.0 million tonnes in 2016. Exports then increased towards a value of 21.9 million tonnes in 2018.

Three countries (Canada, Belarus and Russia) accounted for 79% of the potash traded internationally in 2018.

World exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2018 (p)
Ranking Country Tonnes (thousands) Percentage of total
1 Canada 21,878 41.0%
2 Belarus 10,960 20.5%
3 Russia 9,339 17.5%
4 Israel 3,648 6.8%
5 Germany 3,040 5.7%
- Other countries 4,531 8.5%
Total   53,396 100.0%

World exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2009–2018 (p)

Text version

This bar chart shows world potash exports from 2009 to 2018. Exports were at a 10-year low of 19.7 million tonnes in 2009. Exports then increased to 44.2 million tonnes in 2011, 49.6 million tonnes in 2014, 53.1 million tonnes in 2018, with slight export decreases and recoveries in between.

Prices

Overall potash prices were in decline from 2012 until the first half of 2017. Prices began to increase in the second half of 2017, reaching US$268/tonne by the end of 2018.

Potassium chloride prices, Vancouver f.o.b, standard, monthly, 2009–2018

Text version

This line chart shows monthly potassium chloride spot prices in U.S. dollars per tonne on standard, bulk, free on board at Vancouver from 2009 to 2018. The price was $844 in January 2009. It then trended upward to reach $870 in February and March 2009. The price began to decrease in April 2009 and was down to $313 by March 2010 before bouncing back to $484 in February 2012. It continued on its downward trend until 2016 when it reached lows of $215 and $216 between September and December of that year, and $214 between February and April 2017. Prices began to increase in the second half of 2017 and had attained $268 by December 2018.

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), 2009-2018 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada

International context

  • World production of potash (potassium chloride), by country, 2018 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
    • CRU
  • World production of potash (potassium chloride), 2009-2018 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
    • CRU
  • World reserves of potash (potassium oxide equivalent), by country, 2018 (p)
    • Mineral Commodity Summaries February 2019, U.S. Geological Survey

Trade

  • Canadian exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2009-2018 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • World exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2018 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada; CRU
  • World exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2009-2018 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada; CRU

Prices

  • Potassium chloride spot prices, standard, f.o.b. Vancouver, 2009-2018
    • CRU