Fertiliser firm goes under

Headshot of Jenne Brammer
Jenne BrammerThe West Australian

Superfert Dongbu has gone into voluntary administration, leaving customers short of fertiliser at a crucial time in their seeding program.

With about three weeks remaining until the end of seeding, most farmers would have collected their fertiliser, though a small number would be left high and dry.

These farmers had pre-paid for the fertiliser but the gates to Superfert's Kwinana depot are locked and they are unable to collect.

WAFarmers chief executive Stephen Brown said until administrator Cor Cordis issued its report later this week, everyone was left guessing as to how many farmers were affected and the tonnages involved.

"I have heard from farmers who are concerned about what is going on," he said.

"They are not sure what the exact situation is and are unlikely to have further information until the report is out and the creditors' meeting is held next Monday."

"In reality, if these farmers need fertiliser short-term, they will probably have to buy some more, unless they can wait until further information becomes available.

"They wouldn't be happy. I have so far had contact from three farmers with varying degrees of money or fertiliser tied up with Superfert."

In a statement, Cor Cordis spokesman Dino Travaglini said the company had a significant deficiency and there would be limited trading for the time being.

He confirmed orders had been put on hold given the financial position of the company, while Cor Cordis worked through Superfert Dongbu's issues.

"We do apologise to those famers who are awaiting supplies, given this is a critical time of year for agriculture," Mr Travaglini said.

Growers who need to source the additional fertiliser face high prices, as the cost of fertiliser has risen since the start of the year.

For example, DAP has increased by about $100 a tonne since January.

CSBP fertiliser sales and marketing manager Ben Sudlow said CSBP's first priority was to supply its current customers who had committed to their cropping fertiliser ahead of time and had made known to them their requirements for both tonnage and time of collection.

"Demand for all CSBP fertilisers remains strong at present, given the early seasonal rains and recent widespread rainfall during the weekend of 16 and 17 May," Mr Sudlow said.

"Given we have received final shipments for this season's fertilisers, our capacity to supply additional growers will be limited once we have supplied all existing customers."

It is believed Superfert had been facing troubles for some time.

Agra-Force Fertilisers, a locally owned fertiliser distributor in Bunbury, was previously an agent and South West despatch centre for Superfert, but that arrangement ended in July last year.

Agra-Force owner Simon Allington said initial tensions with his firm started when Superfert was unable to sell the required tonnages.

He suspected Superfert was in trouble because although its agreement was to supply product to Agra-Force on consignment, Superfert refused to supply fertiliser unless paid for in advance.

In the end, Superfert walked away from a legally binding dispatch and handling contract, he said.

"We had a five-year contract but Superfert walked away, and there was absolutely nothing we could do," Mr Allington said.

Mr Travaglini said the company's 15 staff were being retained while a strategy was being formed.

It is understood the company had been open to being sold for the past year, with the CBH Group being among the potential buyers in 2014.

Mr Travaglini said there had been interest in the sale of the business, which would be considered as a possibility.

Superfert supplied less than 10 per cent of fertiliser to the WA market and had an annual turnover of about $80 million.

The company was registered in 2011 and was formed as a joint venture between the locally-owned Superfert and the Korean Dongbu Group.

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