Nitrogen is the most significant nutrient of the three main ones (alongside phosphorous and potassium) and the main component in the global fertilizer trade. As a lack of it in soil causes substantial declines in crop yields, demand for nitrogen fertilizers is relatively insulated from fluctuations in the global economy.

Nitrogen fertilizers are used in not only agriculture but also industry: to produce paint, medicine, resins, food additives and industrial explosives, among others. Industrial demand tends to remain stable throughout the year, which helps to smooth the seasonality of demand from agricultural producers. Industrial demand is forecast to rise at 4% a year.

The mineral fertilizer industry is inextricably linked to the production of foodstuffs, demand for which does not depend on income levels. This underpins the positive forecast for the industry irrespective of the state of the global economy.

Between 2010 and 2014, the IFA forecasts that industrial consumption of nitrogen products will increase by 8%, or an average of 2% a year.