Price discrimination and market power in the international fertiliser market: empirical evidence for exports from Russia

Philipp Goretzki

Oleksandr Perekhozhuk
Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO)

Thomas Glauben
Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO)

Jens-Peter Loy
University of Kiel


Purpose. In 2012, Russia became the world’s second-largest exporter increasing its potash exports from 1996 to 2012 more than two times. The top five countries control more than 50 % of the world’s exports, particularly 53.4 % (38.0 mln MT) for nitrogen, 73.4 % (3.5 mln MT) for phosphate and 90.8 % (35.5 mln MT) for potash. The objective of this study is to analyse the market structure and market concentration of the Russian export company in the international fertiliser market, and to develop hypotheses about the oligopolistic market behaviour. The empirical part of this study tests the hypotheses by employing econometric models to provide evidence for market power and price discrimination in the international fertiliser market.

Methodology / approach. The empirical analysis in this study relies on the theoretical framework of pricing-to-market (PTM) pioneered by Krugman (1986, 1987). Following Krugman’s groundbreaking approach, Knetter (1989) developed an empirical model testing the PTM hypothesis. The major advantages of the Knetter’s model are that the pricing behaviour of the export country towards the import countries can be estimated with public statistical data for the export statistics of the export country and bilateral exchange rates between the currencies of the export and import countries.

Results. This study presents empirical evidence for the behaviour of Russian exporters in the international fertiliser market. The estimation results indicate that market power in the export market for nitrogen fertilisers is exercised by Russian exporters in more than two-thirds of the destination countries and in the export market for potash fertilisers in eight out of nine countries. The exercising market power in the export market for potash fertilisers is much more pronounced than in the nitrogen fertiliser export market.

Originality / scientific novelty. Primarily against the background of increased market concentration by the companies in the fertiliser markets and regarding the aforementioned cartel dispute, this study constitutes a first attempt to close the research gap in the empirical literature and to promote empirical research on the market behaviour of export companies in the international markets for nitrogen and potash fertilisers.

Practical value / implications. This study uses econometric techniques to examine the collapse of the potash cartel on the use of price discrimination and the exercising of market power in the international fertiliser market by Russia. The descriptive analysis shows that Russia plays an important role in the export of nitrogen and potash on the world market and many importing destinations. Often Russia in addition to the high market share also has no or few competitors in the various destinations, which supports speculation of exercising market power.


pricing-to-market (PTM); market power; price discrimination; international market; fertilizer; Russia.

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