A general view of the CF Industries plant in Billingham, Britain September 20, 2021.
A general view of the CF Industries plant in Billingham, Britain September 20, 2021. Reuters / LEE SMITH

CF Industries Holdings is increasing fertilizer shipments to both U.S. coasts from the world's largest nitrogen complex in Louisiana to help offset a decline in exports from Russia after it invaded Ukraine, Chief Executive Tony Will said.

Global fertilizer supplies have tightened and prices have increased from already high levels as sanctions bite Russia and its ally Belarus. Nitrogen fertilizer is one of the most commonly used fertilizers to boost production of corn, canola and other crops.

Illinois-based CF Industries leased several vessels to transport more fertilizer, mostly liquid nitrogen, from its complex in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, Will told Reuters. The company can ship products up the Mississippi River to the Midwest and load vessels to sail downriver through the Gulf of Mexico to tanks on either coast.

"Historically a fair bit of Russian imports have come particularly to the East Coast, and we're trying to make up for that lack of availability by moving our tons over there," Will said.

Russia has previously accounted for 15% of U.S. nitrogen imports, said the Fertilizer Institute, an industry group. Russia is also a major exporter of natural gas, a key input in producing nitrogen fertilizer.

To boost supplies, CF Industries delayed maintenance work at one of its six plants in Donaldsonville until the second half of the year to avoid taking the facility offline, Will said.

"The plant is running less efficiently than it would, but it's still better to have it online," he said.

CF Industries has five U.S. nitrogen manufacturing complexes, along with plants in Canada and the United Kingdom. The company's ability to increase production is limited because it tries to operate plants at their maximum rate all year, Will said.

"We're moving as much product as we can right now with the assets that we have available," he said.

Nutrien Ltd, another fertilizer producer, has said Russia's invasion of Ukraine could result in prolonged disruptions to global fertilizer supplies.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a "special operation."