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Potash facts

Potash is the common name given to a group of minerals and chemicals containing potassium (chemical symbol “K”), which is a basic nutrient for plants and an important ingredient in fertilizer. Potash is mostly produced in the form of potassium chloride (KCl), but since deposits can have different amounts of potassium, 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 1.0 billion tonnes of potash (potassium oxide equivalent).

Learn more about potash

Uses

Potash is primarily used 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 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 20.9 million tonnes of potash in 2019, a decrease of 2.0 million tonnes compared to 22.9 million tonnes in 2018.

Canadian production of potash (potassium chloride), 2010–2019 (p)

Text version

This bar chart shows Canada’s annual mine production of potash from 2010 to 2019. Production was 15.6 million tonnes in 2010 and increased to 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 22.7 million tonnes in 2018. Production in 2019 saw a slight decrease to 20.9 million tonnes.

International context

Find out more about potash production on an international scale:

World production of potash (potassium chloride), by country, 2019 (p)
Ranking Country Tonnes (thousands) Percentage of total
1 Canada 20,934 31.6%
2 Russia 13,052 19.7%
3 Belarus 12,046 18.2%
4 China 7,445 11.3%
- Other countries 12,691 19.2%
Total   66,168 100.0%

Global potash production was estimated at almost 66.2 million tonnes in 2019. Canada is the world’s largest potash producer, accounting for 31.6% of the world’s total in 2019.

Four countries (Canada, Russia, Belarus and China) accounted for 80% of the world’s potash production in 2019.

World production of potash (potassium chloride), 2010–2019 (p)

Text version

This bar chart shows the world’s production of potash from 2010 to 2019. Production was 51.1 million tonnes in 2010 and increased steadily towards a value of 66.2 million tonnes in 2019.

In 2019, the global reserves of potash were estimated at more than 3.6 billion tonnes (potassium oxide equivalent). Canada had the largest reserves with 1.0 billion tonnes. The following table shows the leading potash reserves by country.

World reserves of potash (potassium oxide equivalent), by country, 2019 (p)
Ranking Country Recoverable ore
(million tonnes)
Potassium oxide equivalent
(million tonnes)
1 Canada 4,200 1,000
2 Belarus 3,300 750
3 Russia NA 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 2019, Canada exported 19.3 million tonnes of potash, accounting for 39% of the world’s total exports.

Canadian exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2010–2019 (p)

Text version

This bar chart shows Canadian potash exports from 2010 to 2019. Exports were 15.4 million tonnes in 2010 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 towards a 10-year peak of 21.9 million tonnes in 2018. Exports then decreased to 19.3 million tonnes in 2019.

Three countries (Canada, Belarus and Russia) accounted for 80% of the potash traded internationally in 2019.

World exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2019 (p)
Ranking Country Tonnes (thousands) Percentage of total
1 Canada 19,352 39%
2 Belarus 10,598 21%
3 Russia 9,767 20%
4 Germany 3,164 6%
5 Israel 3,079 6%
- Other countries 3,898 8%
Total   49,858 100%

World exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2010–2019 (p)

Text version

This bar chart shows world potash exports from 2010 to 2019. Exports were at 42.1 million tonnes in 2010. Exports increased to 44.2 million tonnes in 2011 before decreasing to 36.9 million tonnes in 2012. Exports steadily increased towards 49.6 million tonnes in 2014, but then decreased again to 46.4 million tonnes in 2015. Production increased to a 10-year peak of 53.1 million tonnes in 2018 before decreasing to 49.9 million tonnes in 2019.

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, eventually reaching US$275/tonne at the beginning of 2019 before decreasing slightly to US$253/tonne in December 2019.

Potassium chloride prices, Vancouver f.o.b, standard, 2010–2019

Text version

This line chart shows monthly potassium chloride prices in US dollars per tonne, free on board at Vancouver from 2010 to 2019. The price was $390 in January 2010. It declined in 2010 and ended the year at US $312 in December. The price 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 are at $266 at the end of 2019.

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), 2010-2019 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada

International context

  • World production of potash (potassium chloride), by country, 2019 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
    • CRU
  • World production of potash (potassium chloride), 2010-2019 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
    • CRU
  • World reserves of potash (potassium oxide equivalent), by country, 2019 (p)
    • Mineral Commodity Summaries 2020, U.S. Geological Survey

Trade

  • Canadian exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2010-2019 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • World exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2019 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada; CRU
  • World exports of potash (potassium chloride), 2010-2019 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada; CRU

Prices

  • Potassium chloride spot prices, standard, f.o.b. Vancouver, 2010-2019
    • The World Bank
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