Ballance and Ravensdown are companies that manufacture single superphosphate (without extra ingredients) on behalf of their farmer shareholders, from the raw ingredients of elemental sulfur and rock phosphate. Both companies import these raw materials – most rock phosphate comes from North Africa, and the sulfur mainly from Canada, where it is a by-product of the petrochemical industry.
All three major fertiliser companies (Ballance, Ravensdown and Summit Quinphos) import other products from around the globe – such as compound NPK fertilisers from Norway and the Netherlands; potassium chloride (potash) from Canada and Germany; sulfate of ammonia from Canada and Australia; and urea from Malaysia and the Arabian Gulf.
Reactive rock phosphate is imported mainly by Summit Quinphos, from North Africa and the Middle East. Reactive rock phosphate differs from the rock phosphate used for manufacturing superphosphate in that it is able to be dissolved by the acids in soil and so can be applied directly to pasture without any chemical processing.
Buying and importing these materials and manufactured products means that the companies have expertise in the global fertiliser market, in contract negotiation, international shipping, and hedging against currency fluctuations – most contracts are transacted in US dollars.
In 2007 annual sales of fertiliser products from New Zealand’s three major suppliers totalled around $1 billion. Fertiliser price rises in 2008 increased this substantially.
Ballance and Ravensdown are 100% farmer-owned cooperatives: their customers are also the shareholders. The main focus is on gaining the best price in the purchase, manufacture and supply of fertilisers to shareholders, and where possible to enhance profitability with new products and services.