Latest Dairy Market Blog

IFA analysis of the current dairy market trends and developments and how they affect Irish farmers.

November 25, 2019

ARE OUR CO-OPS SHORTCHANGING US ON MILK PRICES?

  • Co-ops are using our improved constituents and growing volumes to camouflage poor milk prices

In the last 20 years, the mean annual protein content of the milk produced by Irish dairy farmers has gone from 3.2% to 3.5%, while butterfat levels have gone from 3.7% to 4.2%.  Both constituents vary widely seasonally, with peak/trough differences of 0.6% for protein, and 1% for butterfat – the latter now unrestricted after the end of the quota regime.

Numerous co-ops have taken to quoting not only their standard price at 3.3% protein 3.6% butterfat, but also the price achievable in the relevant month at the co-op’s average constituents –especially so in autumn, when the constituents are at their seasonally highest levels.

Farmers have achieved those higher constituents through hard work, breeding, management and feeding, and have also grown volumes, also at a significant cost.  They are frustrated to see their hard work being hijacked.

(Source of data in graph right: CSO)

  • Co-ops have fallen behind the LTO average, and have not reflected the European
    stable to firmer milk price trend in the last 6 months

Three Irish co-ops are included in the LTO monthly European milk price league: Dairygold, Glanbia and Kerry.  The LTO gathers milk statements from a small number of suppliers to each of the main milk purchasers in the main EU dairy countries.  Prices are measured in €/100kgs, and standardised at 3.4% protein and 4.2% butterfat.

The graph to the right shows how the three Irish co-ops have fallen away and behind the LTO trend from May 18, and the gap between the Irish milk price and the LTO average has widened considerably in the last 18 months.

In effect, Irish co-ops have not followed the European milk price trend for at least 6 months, which is to stable or even firmer milk prices.  Instead, Irish co-ops have continued cutting milk prices dramatically when European milk purchasers were holding, or even in some cases increasing, theirs.

Arguments made recently to suggest that lower Irish prices are due to our commodity product mix versus larger consumer markets in Europe simply does not stand up in this context.

(Source of data in graph above right: LTO Netherlands)

  • Most co-ops have also fallen behind the Ornua PPI for most of the last 12 months

The Ornua PPI is probably the most directly relevant of all the dairy market indices IFA monitors, in that it reflects the exact product, market and price mixes traded on behalf of co-ops by Ornua for the month concerned.

Yet, from December 2018, all co-ops bar the four West Cork co-ops have fallen well behind for almost every single month.

The gap has widened to an October level of up to 2.5c/l – worth €1050 on the October supplies of a 500,000-litre supplier.

(Sources of data in graph right: Farmers’ Journal Milk Price League, Ornua)

 

WE NEED OUR CO-OPS TO DO BETTER ON MILK PRICES, AND THEY CAN!

  • There are many market related reasons why co-ops can pay better milk prices

Subdued global dairy growth has been a feature for months.

It has led first to the rapid elimination of the intervention SMP stocks, and now to a real shortfall for 2019 and 2020 in privately held international stocks of powder.

SMP prices have risen by a whopping €340/t since early August!

While butter prices have come back, they had reached double their normal levels in 2017, and are now back to… their historically normal level! Also, they have firmed in recent weeks as the graph right shows.

Cheddar prices have lifted by €90/t since early August, WMP by €100/t and even whey powder prices (not featured in the graph right) have increased by €80/t over the period – an 11% lift.

(Source of data in graph right: EU Milk Market Observatory)

 

  • Global markets have also improved

    The last four GDT auctions have seen positive outcomes. We have seen a major increase in powders and protein prices: SMP is up 28% since June, and WMP up 12% over the same period.Since August, casein prices have increased 21%.Meanwhile, Cheddar and butter prices have been pretty stable, barely changing over the period.

    (Source: GDT)

  • Returns from the main indicators have firmed, and all are well above Irish milk prices

    Over recent months, commodity prices have either improved significantly (powders) or remained stable to firmer (cheese, and now, butter).  European market indicators monitored by IFA have lifted throughout the period, and, futures excluded, return 1.4c/l to 5c/l more than Irish milk prices.

    The Irish product mix, based on the EU MMO returns since early August, has increased just over 2.5c/l (after deduction of a notional 5c/l processing cost).

    The Ornua PPI, which had been falling since May, has increased by 0.7c/l in the last 3 months.Spots and futures also suggest that those trends are set to last for the medium term at least.

    (Source of data in table right: EU MMO)

  • Farmers cannot afford poor prices next spring!

    Merchant credit and other bills must get paid, and early heavy rain suggests a long costly winter and possibly spring ahead.Volumes are now stagnating versus last year, and constituents will dip at year end.Assuming no price changes from October, the March constituent levels will cost farmers around 3.8 cents per litre – that would be a cash-flow crippling €1600 shortfall on the March milk cheque for a 500,000-litre supplier.

    Our co-ops can, and must do better on milk prices this year end and next spring!

 

CL/IFA/25th November 2019

 

September 26, 2019

Dairy markets: stable or stagnant?

At the 19th September meeting of the EU Milk Market Observatory Economic Board, where I was representing COPA, this question was asked.  With supply and demand in reasonable balance, why are farmer milk prices stagnant (in fact, falling in Ireland!)?

We have been repeating it for months: milk output growth among the most important dairy regions has been very modest.  Low private powder stocks and empty intervention, though butter stocks have been higher, have only contributed in a limited way to available supplies.

Combined with reasonably solid demand from the likes of China and other Asian countries as well as within the US and the EU, we definitely have a balanced dairy market.

Low milk supply growth – except for New Zealand’s very early season

January to July output for the main 4 milk production region remains in negative territory, at just under 0%.  January to June production fell 0.5%, with particularly negative trends in Oceania and South America.  Expectations from the EU Commission’s analysis suggests that production will grow very moderately for the second half of 2019.

For the two trough months of June and July, New Zealand production has increased substantially, by 14% in June (absolute trough) and just under 5% for July, while August output went up by 2.22% (milk solids – actual volume was only up 0.8%).  Rabobank predicts a full 2019/20 season output for New Zealand between -1% and +1%, depending on spring weather patterns over the next number of weeks coming to the October peak.

Source: EU MMO

US milk supplies were flat for the first half of 2019.  For July and August, output was up only 0.2% compared to the same months in 2018.

Things don’t look good for the future either:  cow numbers are down, and there are dire reports of farmers going out of business – with predictions that 10% of the state’s dairy farmers may go bankrupt in 2019 (40% shut down in the last decade).

Farm Aid concerts involving the likes of Willie Nelson and Neil Young have sought to highlight the plight of US dairy farmers.

The causes: low milk prices, and the US administration’s trade and tariff policy which have hampered the US’s ability to export, and resulted in a glut of milk at home.  Exports of cheese and other dairy products to China and Mexico have been hampered by countervailing tariffs.  Also, soy beans which used to be imported relatively cheaply from China are no longer available as cheaply, so costs have also increased and margins on farms have been squeezed.

Federal aid packages do not appear to have sufficed to compensate farmers for the disastrous impact.

EU milk production has also been relatively flat this year so far, with soil moisture deficits in the late spring and summer the main factors.  January to July milk supplies grew only 0.2% (+0.3% for July alone), with Rabobank predicting continued moderate if any growth at all to spring 2020, largely because of tight forage and feed availability and quality expected to continue impacting into winter.

The EU Commission predicts a full-year 2019 milk production increase of only 0.5% compared to the prior year, with strong positive outcomes in Ireland, the UK, Poland and Belgium, and reduced output in France, the Netherlands and Italy, and stable production trends in Germany.

Stocks of powder low in EU, butter stocks less so

SMP stocks – which are now entirely private, as intervention is long empty – are calculated by adding up production + imports and subtracting consumption + export.  Both EDA and the EU Commission expect SMP stocks to tighten even further into 2020, as a result of lower production and very strong exports throughout 2019 todate.

This is expected to have a positive impact on SMP prices, and this is also showing in current average prices, spot and futures quotes (see below).

Source: EDA

Privately held butter stocks, calculated on the same basis,  are estimated by the EU Commission to be between 20,000t and 70,000t above last year.  EDA (graphs below) reflect this.  This is high-ish, or more accurately either within normal variations or high, and undoubtedly contributes to keeping a bit of a lid on butter prices.  The two graphs below outline EDA’s low and high estimates of butter stock.

Source: EDA

Demand – EU exports, Chinese imports and global trade all continue strong

The EU Commission’s latest EU MMO report confirms that global demand has been solid, with the exception of whey products.  Expectations are for a quieter second half on global trade, partly due to the strong buying in the first half.

EU exports of butter and skimmed milk powder have increased massively in 2019 thus far.

Within a global SMP exports increase of over 6%, EU SMP exports show record growth figures, up a huge 30.6% for the first half of 2019, but the EU Commission warns that trade could slow down as prices increase.

EU butter is competitive in world markets, resulting in 7.4% export growth in H1 2019, and a massive 90% increase in July alone.

EU Cheese exports grew more modestly in H1 2019, by 0.9%, but in the context of global cheese exports rising by 3.7% for the same period.

Where the EU lost ground is in WMP exports, which fell by nearly 22% compared to the first half of 2018, in the context of global export increases of 7.1%, mostly benefiting New Zealand.

Demand in China remains strong, with imports continuing for the Jan-Jul 2019 period on the strong growth trend of the last three years.  This is especially true for milk powders (both SMP and WMP) and infant formula. For cheese, China is now the 6thworld importer, coming close to South Korea. Chinese butter imports have dropped, to the detriment of New Zealand.

US imports have surged this year, notably for butter (+46%).  What will happen to these in the tariff war between the US and China in the coming months remains to be seen.

The whey powder market is highly influenced by the effects of African Swine Fever in China, as this has reduced the national pig herd, consumer of whey based feed, by a third todate – with predictions that culling due to the disease could halve the herd by year end.  With China accounting for 50% of world pig production, this is an event of true global scale.
Combined whey exports from global traders have contracted by 13% (-4% for the EU). Yet, EU exports of whey powder to China have increased this year.

Source: Eucolait

In the butter market, high stock levels keep prices relatively low and therefore encourage trade flows.  Global butter exports grew 6.6% in the Jan-Jun period, and within that, EU butter exports performed even better, with an increase of 7.4%.

Top destination of EU butter exports was the US, with over 17,000t exported in the first half, This year.  In the Airbus v Boeing EU v US WTO dispute, WTO gave the US the right to impose countervailing import tariffs on dairy products (butter and cheese in particular) which we understand could come into play from October, and upset an otherwise growing trade (including hugely successful and high value Kerrygold butter exports!).  Watch this space.

Another interesting element in the examination of global butter exports is India, the single largest milk producing country in the world, which emerges as a major butter exporter, with sizeable volumes shipped to Turkey.

Despite market balance looking set to last medium term at least, sentiment affected by global trade and economic uncertainty

With market in balance, what is worrying operators?  According to the EU MMO report from last week:

“Market fundamentals for dairy remain positive and global markets are in relatively good balance due to reduced milk output and strong demand.  Sentiment is weakened by Brexit, other geo-political uncertainty factors and worsening trade conflict”

And yet… dairy prices are firming

EU butter prices have fallen by a massive 30% in the last 12 months, but have stabilised somewhat since mid-August, even with some firming.

SMP prices have increased by a whopping 37% since this time last year, and the trend continues gently upwards.  While WMP prices are a more mixed story, they too are up, but about 3%, since 12 months ago.

Cheddar cheese, peaked last April for 2019, and have since stabilised above €3050/t.

Whey powder prices have been weak, reflecting global poor trade (see above) linked to lower demand from China.

Based on EU MMO data

Spot quotes and futures quotes do suggest some more positivity ahead, though, reflecting a well-balanced supply-demand situation likely to last into next spring, according to the Rabobank Q3 2019 Dairy Quarterly report published last week.

Source: INTL FCStone

Even overall returns for current average dairy market prices have improved, especially SMP and WMP, but also cheese.  While butter had firmed a little in recent week, it has eased a little in the most recent week.

For all that, the Irish product mix return, at EU average price levels, would yield a gross 35.07c/l before processing costs, slightly above what it has been in recent weeks, and equivalent to a milk price of 30.07c/l + VAT after deduction of a nominal 5c/l for processing costs.  This would be equivalent to a VAT inclusive 31.7c/l – that’s around 1.6c/l more than the simple average of the August milk prices paid by Irish co-ops, as recorded in the Farmers’ Journal milk league.

Based on EU MMO data

Considering all the main indicators we monitor on an ongoing basis (EU MMO averages, spots, futures, GDT, Ornua PPI), we have to note that, apart from the Ornua PPI, which would return, for August milk, the equivalent of 29.22c/l + VAT (30.8c/l incl VAT), all other indicators would return an Irish milk price equivalent net of VAT in excess of 30c/l – a not insignificant improvement in recent weeks.

European milk prices are stable… yet Irish milk prices have been falling

EU MMO reports and LTO reports agree: EU average milk prices have stabilised in recent months, and look set to at worst stay firm for the medium term at least, in light of the fact that markets are well balanced.

The EU MMO reported average EU milk producer price as in the graph below shows stability for the last three months at around €33.5/100 kgs.

Source: EU MMO

Irish milk prices, on the other hand, have been falling in recent months, with most co-ops applying cuts of between 2c/l and 3.3c/l since January (there was also some small cuts by some co-ops last November), so that we estimate the current(August) 3.3% protein, 3.6% fat Farmers Journal league simple average would work out at around 28.5c/l + VAT (30.04c/l incl VAT).  This average is however heavily influenced by the West Cork Co-ops, and some of the main milk purchasers are paying just over 27c/l + VAT (28.5c/l incl VAT).

For the last EU MMO Economic Board meeting, our LTO colleagues have released their July milk price review ranked by price, and it clearly shows the three Irish co-ops included in the review, Glanbia, Dairygold and Kerry, firmly at the bottom.
It is worth noting that most milk purchasers are holding their milk prices for August and September, and that the gap between the LTO average and the price paid by two out of three Irish co-ops included has widened further as both Glanbia and Dairygold have cut their August milk price.
This brings the gap between Irish milk purchasers and the average LTO price to €2.93/100 kgs, leaving Irish dairy farmers at a unique disadvantage relative to their European counterparts.

Source: LTO Nederland

Conclusion: Rabobank predicts supply/demand balance could even past spring 2020

The Dairy Quarterly Q3 2019 report, published last week by Rabobank, concludes that, despite slowing global economic activity and uncertainty, “the outlook for demand growth is more than enough to absorb the modest volumes of increasing milk flows, and the current general firmness in global markets is expected to remain through mid-2020”.

This should help make Irish co-ops rethink their pricing policy over the coming months!

The following is the Rabobank summary view on the factors which will be relevant to dairy markets in each of the main regions:

Source: Rabobank

CL/IFA/25th September, 2019

August 23, 2019

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Supply growth remains subdued, but nervous sentiments impacts prices

It’s a bit of a broken record among dairy market analysts: milk output growth globally has remained very subdued – which should underpin better dairy prices –  yet markets are sluggish with easier butter prices the main characteristic.

Global milk production is actually down, estimated at -0.4% for Jan to June, with weak supplies in the US,  Australia and South America.  The new 2019/2020 NZ season looks set for a strong start, with June supplies up around 13% in milk solids terms.  However, June is the trough month, and in 2018 accounted for less than 1% of milk solids production for the full year.

EU production is only very modestly up (only +0.4% for Jan-June), but hides differing trends.  Hence, France’s negative production trend remains negative, but less so, while German production, rising in the first quarter, has been falling every month since.  Dutch milk output continues down (-2.7%) as last year’s herd reduction scheme continues to impact.  Between them, these 3 countries account for around 45% of all EU milk production.

Other countries expanded production, not least Ireland, +10% for the Jan to June period, the UK (+3%) and while Poland had been growing its production fast up till now, it has just registered it first negative since late 2016 in June, down 0.5% compared to the same month last year.

The main problem comes from demand-side factors.

Weaker economic growth

Global economic growth has been easing for some months now, with particular reports from the Eurozone, the US and China.  The IMF has for some time been flagging its concerns about a possible global recession, urging the US and China to resolve their trade skirmishes, and have now reduced their growth forecasts for 2019 and 2020.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Source: USDEC[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Global dairy demand is a mixed bag

In simple terms, demand is more buoyant in (some) developing countries than in the developed world.  Hence, demand is relatively sluggish in the EU, while it is reported strong to very strong in Asia (including China).

Chinese imports, which had been growing in volume since last October, marked a beat in May, to recover slightly in June.

Year to date (June) volumes have increased very significantly, especially for certain products.  WMP imports have risen 29%, while SMP went up 28.4%.  Infant formulae imports were also well up, at 14.6%.  Bulk and packed milk was up a whopping 32%, while cream rose 53% and condensed milk 39%, albeit the last two from much smaller volumes.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Source: CLAL.it[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]On the other hand, demand in Africa and the Middle East continues to struggle. African demand for Jan-June is reported down 10%, although this does not include FFMP (fat filled milk powder or enriched milk powder) which is comfortably offsetting the fall.

Middle eastern demand, after a negative period, is believed to be on the way back up.

Oil price revenues, despite OPEC’s best efforts, have been hampered by crude oil prices remaining around $60/barrell.  For many Middle Eastern and some African countries, these are crucial revenues to finance food, including dairy, imports.

More positively, lower priced butter is now more affordable, and there are reports that this is starting to impact positively on some markets.

Geopolitical uncertainties

These are probably the main factors affecting both the global economic expectations and the market sentiments.

Brexit is the obvious and most immediate one.  Much has been said about the (already being felt) impact of Brexit on beef markets and prices.  But dairy markets, especially Irish dairy exports, are also very dependent on the UK – we have documented this in the initial IFA Brexit document back in March 2017, and you can check the facts and figures here: https://www.ifa.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/763773Brexit-imperatives-policy-paper55629.pdf

Trade disputes between the US and the EU (Airbus v Boeing, and the imposition of import tariffs by the US including on EU dairy products), between the US and China (again, mutual imposition of import tariffs, which have led to serious implications for US farmers, and have given rise to the need for the US to spend a reported $16bn in farmer trade aids) are also causing major disruption in world trade.  The uncertainty this creates for the ability to trade any commodity is damaging all markets, including dairy markets.

Finally, a number of countries with sizeable populations and potential large markets for dairy imports are affected by wars and conflicts – e.g. Iran and much of the rest of the Middle East.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]So, what impact on dairy prices?

EU dairy prices are a tale of 2 trends: improving powder prices and easing butter, cheese and whey prices.

Since January, average butter prices as reported by the EU MMO have decreased by €750/tonne, while whey powder has come down €150/t which is 17% to 18% in both cases.

Cheddar cheese prices have been relatively stable, by comparison, with a fall of only €70/t or 2.2%.

Meanwhile, WMP is now €140/t higher than it was in early January – that is 5.2% higher; and SMP prices have gone up €340/t, a spectacular increase of 19.5%.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Based on EU MMO data[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]GDT trends over the same period have been similar for powders, with a steady, if greater (WMP) and lower (SMP) price improvement than EU quotes have shown.  Whole milk powder (WMP) remains the product the most traded through GDT, as has been the trend from the very beginning.

Butter prices are not dramatically changed from early this year ($50 less per tonne), but this is after a major uplift from March to June.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Based on GDT data[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Returns continue to ease – but remain above Irish milk prices!

Returns from dairy product are measured through a number of indicators.

Most directly relevant to Irish co-ops, because it reflects what they trade through Ornua, is the Ornua Product Purchasing Index (PPI).

Just like Irish milk prices, the Ornua PPI is announced in retrospect, and reflects returns for a basket of product traded the month prior to its publication.

For July trade, the Ornua PPI fell by 1.7 points to 104 points.  This was calculated by Ornua to be equivalent to a milk price of 29.31c/l + VAT (30.9c/l incl. VAT).  This is 1.4c/l more than Glanbia are paying for July milk, at 29.5c/l incl VAT.  As we have shown in previous blogs, only the West Cork co-ops have consistently exceeded the Ornua PPI returns in their milk prices over the last 10 months.  The other payers have undershot the PPI for the majority of the last 10 months, with Lakeland Dairies coming closest to it.  In July, though, it appears the gap has widened further: with the exception of Lakeland, who cut by ½ a cent, all other milk purchasers have cut their price by 1c/l, when the PPI equivalent only fell by 0.67c/l.

Other indicators (see table right) have continued to ease, but remain equivalent to milk prices before VAT of between 29c/l and 31c/l (30.6 to 32.7c/l incl VAT).

It would seem most Irish co-ops who wish to sustain their suppliers precious confidence have scope to hold prices for another while![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]CL/IFA/23rd August 2019[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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