Latest Dairy Market Blog

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

March 22, 2018

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Output growth outpaces demand – with implications for prices

Milk output has responded to the milk price recovery of 2017, and volumes are up in most regions, except New Zealand where weather factors have actually reduced growth.  Growth has been relatively more moderate in the EU in December and January however, which, together with lower production in New Zealand, explains the overall slower growth noted in the most recent two months for which data is available (USDEC graph below).[/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]Demand, meanwhile, has remained quite strong in China, but more subdued in the rest of SE Asia, and under pressure in MENA and sub-Saharan Africa.  That said, the global trends for dairy demand remain strong for the longer haul despite the temporary supply/demand imbalance.  Also, higher oil prices and lower dairy commodity prices should improve the affordability of dairy across the regions where demand had been made sluggish by the high 2017 prices. Global demand for butter remains quite strong, which is being reflected in prices firming again after major falls between September 2017 and mid January 2018.  Demand for powder, on the other hand, is a great deal weaker.

With supply trends in the most recent period of around 2%, and demand rising by only 1.5%, the imbalance at the moment is creating some pressure on dairy commodity prices and therefore milk prices.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Source: Ornua[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Will the impact of the cold snap persist into peak?

Snow and ice affected much of North Western Europe, with spectacular impacts on UK milk deliveries (see graph below).  AHDB estimate that 19m litres of milk were lost in the period from 28th February to 3rd March (The Best from the East) On 2nd and 3rd March, supplies were down by as much as 21 to 29% – but this was shortlived, and represents only a fraction of the normal supplies for the month.   However, the full impact of later turnout and poorer grass growth will only show later, and may be more significant.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Source: AHDB Dairy[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In other countries, like France and Germany, for which supply data is available for almost real time, there is no sign of a major downturn in supplies to coincide with the cold snap.  However, this is in the case of Germany by comparison with 2017 supplies, which were well back on 2016.  Compared to 2016, week 8 of 2018 is a little down.

French milk deliveries were down 2.5% for the week between the end of February and the beginning of March when compared with the 5 year average, and down on the previous week by 1.3% and by 0.2% compared to the same week in 2017 – this should be seen in the context of the effect of the production reduction scheme in late 2016 and early 2017, so these decreases are meaningful.

However most important of all will be what impact, if any, the bad weather will have had on the 2018 production season (fodder/grass growth, cow condition, breeding impact if any, etc.).[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Source: ZMB[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Source: France Agrimer[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Dairy prices – divergence between butter and powders continues, but at lower levels

Since May 2016, dairy prices have first recovered – butter most spectacularly, to levels never previously reached – then  weakened fairly significantly.

Since early 2018, butter prices have been firmly quite significantly, with Cheddar cheese improving more moderately, and whey powder has lifted up to €700/t.  WMP has been stable, but at levels well below €3000/t.

Most worrying of all is the SMP price.  SMP is crucial to the Irish product mix, and the price has been weakening non-stop since June 2017 – most recently reaching €1330/t.  For reference, the intervention “reference” price, below which intervention buying-in may take place, is €1698/t – €368/t above current average market price.

Based on EU MMO data

Intervention buy-in will technically come in this month, as it is triggered by the price falling below the reference price of €1698/t – which it well and truly has.  However, earlier this year, the EU Commission obtained the Agriculture Council’s agreement to remove the legal obligation to buy up to 109,000t at the minimum price of €1698/t.  Concretely, this means the EU Commission may choose not to buy any SMP at all – by simply drawing the line at €0.  As doing anything different would in effect increase the stock beyond the 377,175t still in intervention warehouses, it is easy to understand why the Commission would abstain. The Commission’s strong message of recent months – especially expressed by Commissioner Phil Hogan – has been that the EU dairy industry need not produce SMP willy-nilly and expect it to be taken in by the EU.  It seems the industry has been paying some heed, as there was 2.6% less SMP produced in 2017 compared to 2016.

The EU Commission has by now sold out 6,121 tonnes of SMP out of intervention since December 2016 – out of a total product made available of around 100,000t (product sold into intervention pre-April 2016, so coming on to 2 years old and older).  There is around 95,000t left over for tender this month – it has not yet been adjudicated as we write.  The previous tender, adjudicated on 20th February, set the price at €1190/t – a very substantial discount even on current weak fresh product prices.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Implications for returns… and prices

Weaker dairy commodity prices have reduced returns in proportion.  The most recent EU MMO quotes show that butter prices are picking up, but still, the typical Irish product mix would return, as at 11th March, a gross 34c/l, before processing costs are deducted, or VAT is added on – that would be a milk price equivalent of 30.5c/l including VAT.  This is a small improvement on the returns the average February dairy commodity prices would have yielded – but an improvement which shows that there is life in the strong butter price trend yet, with continued good demand for butterfat in Europe and on export.

Based on EU MMO data[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]The Ornua PPI is a small hedge on this, with a February 105 points equivalent to a milk price of 31.4c/l incl VAT – though this remains below the prices currently being paid (see below).

Ornua has also just filed their results for 2017, and they make impressive reading.  Turnover has increased 18% to exceed €2bn, and group EBITDA (Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, the most widely accepted measurement of profits) by 25% to nearly €54m.  It is clear that a good marketing strategy and delivery by the Ornua team is behind this performance, as are massively improved butter prices and generally higher commodity returns in 2017.  But farmers have played a crucial part, delivering 9% more sustainably produced, high quality milk, and this needs to be recognised.

What the table does not show, is that the improved trading performance will allow Ornua pay increased bonuses to its members in respect to 2017 trading, from €9.5m last year to €15m.

Co-ops must ensure that this is used to support dairy farmers over the coming months.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The last GDT auction (20th March) saw a further 1.2% drop, but most meaningfully a fall of 8.6% in the SMP price.

Combined, the average SMP and butter prices reached in the GDT of 20th March are equivalent to a gross return of 32.7c/l before processing costs are deducted.


Source: GDT[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Fonterra Co-op lifts milk pay-out for 17/18 – showing that milk price is not all about today’s market returns!

Fonterra yesterday (21st March) announced their 2017 interim results, showing a 6% increase in turnover, but reduced profits and a probably disappointing performance in other areas (not least their Beingmate Chinese investment in IMF).

Interestingly, they also announced an increase in the forecast farmgate milk price for 2017/18 to NZ$6.55 per kilo of milk solids, with a full year dividend forecast of 25 to 35 cents, which would put the forecast total payout for the current season at NZ$6.80 to 6.90/kg MS, i.e. up to 30.6c/l incl VAT at 3.3% protein and 3.6% butterfat.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Source: Fonterra[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Some interesting quotes from Chairman John Wilson’s announcement of the results suggest that there is more to milk price setting than pure current market product price trends:
Chairman John Wilson says the ongoing strong global demand for dairy and stable global supply are continuing to support global prices, particularly for the important Whole Milk Powder category.
“Farmers will welcome a forecast cash payout of $6.80 – $6.90, which would be the third highest in the last decade. This is also good news for New Zealand as it represents around $10 billion flowing into the country’s economy. However, we are very aware of the challenges many of our farmers are facing this season with difficult weather conditions impacting production.  While the global supply and demand picture remains positive and we expect prices to stay around current levels, we will be watching for any impact on market sentiment as spring production volumes build in Europe”.

Irish co-ops should take a leaf from Fonterra’s book in looking beyond just markets!

February 2018 has seen the first price cuts since June 2016, and the extent, timing and context has frankly shocked Irish dairy farmers – most of all Glanbia suppliers who saw a 3c/l milk price cut days after they were worst hit by snow storm Emma.  The 1c/l bad weather bonus paid to farmers, and the new seasonality bonus under which some qualify for a 4.25c/l bonus on February supplies did not seem to make up for this in the minds of the many farmers who contacted this office!

February milk supplies in 2017 accounted for around 3.8% of total annual supplies.  February 2018 supplies will probably prove to have been somewhat moderated by the cold weather, so expected growth would be modest – just as January supplies only rose by 1.5% on January 2017.  Our strong seasonality would have led milk producers to expect a more circumspect approach to milk price adjustments, though they were well aware of the market return challenges.

Price cuts for February supplies have now been announced by most milk purchasers in Ireland and are summarised in the table below (sources: press releases and media reports).

Glanbia -3c/l to 32c/l incl VAT + 1c/l “bad weather” bonus
Many farmers qualify for new 4.25c/l seasonal Jan/Feb bonus
Kerry -2c/l to 32.25c/l + VAT  
Lakeland -1c/l to 32.79c/l + VAT Had cut 1c/l “butter bonus” in Jan
Aurivo -1.5c/l to 32.25c/l + VAT 1.5c/l seasonal bonus in addition to base
Dairygold -2c/l to 32.3c/l + VAT Includes 0.5c/l quality bonus
Carbery -2c/l to 32.88c/l + VAT Farmers are paid by West Cork Co-ops, not by Carbery
Arrabawn -1c/l to 34.25c/l + VAT Unclear whether this includes early calving bonus
LacPatrick -3c/l to 31c/l + VAT +3c/l unconditional early calving bonus in addition to base

Before March milk prices are examined by boards early next month, farmers will expect them to take into serious consideration the very long cold winter, late spring and generally challenging conditions farmers have had to endure for calving 2018!

CL/IFA/22nd March 2018 [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

February 17, 2018

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Milk output growth slower at end 17, but ahead of demand growth

While milk output growth moderated a little in December, this reflected lower NZ supplies (-2.6%), and slightly more modest growth than expected in the US (+1.1%).  EU output was well up for the month, with the full year production up 1.9%, and the two largest producers, Germany and France growing 3-5% in the last few months of the year.

Ireland (+9.2%), the UK (+3.3%), Poland (+4.9%), Spain, Denmark and Italy were all well up for the year.  Only Germany, France and the Netherlands (the latter due to the phosphates related herd reduction) had quasi unchanged volumes across the year.

(Note, the graphic to the right represents the Jan-Nov period, the figures above the Jan-Dec period.)

The balance of supply to demand will be heavily dependent on what happens with the European flush – and so far it is set for a significant increase.  Together with the overhanging SMP stock, most market analysts expect this to lead to lower prices.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Source: EU MMO[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Intervention stock – some thoughts on how to dispose of it

The Council of Agriculture Minister has rubberstamped earlier this month the decision by the EU Commission to remove the fixed price from any potential intervention buying in this year.  In practice, it means the Commission may, if it so chooses, not purchase any product into intervention when it opens in March, or to purchase it at a price below the €1698 reference price.

While one can understand it is problematic to be adding more stock to the existing 370,000t overhanging the market, the Commission really needs to get stuck into how to dispose of it.

Interesting proposals have been made by the French government – the most credible of which is to direct it to feed compounders for the manufacture of livestock feed other than calf milk replacer – replacing vegetable protein, perhaps.

It has been pointed out that the product has been available all along for feed compounders to buy it, and they have either not shown interest or only at very low prices.

Perhaps parcelling up different ages of stock for disposal at differentiated prices might appeal to them and release stock while making a clear difference between it and the fresh market, which must not be disrupted.

The EU Commission will be debating a variety of methods for disposal next week, and the IFA Dairy Team will have the opportunity to make some proposals through COPA and the Citizen Dialogue Group which are also scheduled to discuss the issue early next week.

The ideal scenario would be to dispose of a sizeable chunk from intervention reasonably promptly in a manner which does not have a negative impact on the price of the very different fresh product the production of which is rising with the seasonality of milk production.

Demand is a mixed picture

EU butter and powder demand is reported to be flat.  Cheese consumption is continuing to grow moderately, and liquid milk consumption is in decline.

In the US, butter consumption continues historically high, with cheddar (an important ingredient in fast food such as pizza) and powder consumption weaker.

Demand remains very strong in China in particular, where the strong growth of imports seen in 2017 continues in to the new year, especially for powder.  Japanese cheese imports are also growing – from a low base.  As to Korea, the positive impact of the Olympic Games seems to have waned somewhat with some weakness showing in import activity.

In the rest of South East Asia (Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines…), powder demand appears to be recovering, with butter and cheese growing from a low base.

In the Middle East and North Africa, Algeria, Libya and Iraq have increased imports, especially from the EU, but volumes to most of the other countries is down.  That said, butter exporters report that buyers are starting to find the lower prices more attractive.

In South America Mexico and Chile imports are increasing, especially in the latter case imports of cheese from Europe.  Venezuela’s economic woes have cost powder imports, and Brazil dairy imports have weakened.

EU Commodity prices stabilising at lower levels than for most of 2017

It is good to see that the significant fall in prices seen from October onwards for most commodities (since July for SMP) have apparently stabilised, at least for now.  A run of 3 positive GDT auctions this year so far, influenced by lower NZ milk output, have undoubtedly influenced this.  The next auction is on next Tuesday 20th February, and it will be very interesting to see what this brings.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Based on data from EU MMO[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Prices as reported by the EU MMO for week ending 4th February (the most recent data available) would return as per table below a gross 33.44c/l before processing costs.  Assuming those are around 5c/l, this would be equivalent to a farmgate price of 28.44c/l + VAT or 30c/l incl VAT.

Based on EU MMO data

The Ornua PPI provides some degree of hedging on the way down from the real time market trends, as it reflects the returns from forward contracts signed some months ago at somewhat higher prices – though those are bound to be running out – and the value added by brands, not least Kerrygold.

The Ornua PPI for January remains at the December level because of this, at 111.3 points, equivalent to a VAT inclusive farmgate price, according to Ornua themselves, of 33.6c/l (31.87c/l + VAT).[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Source: Ornua[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Co-ops have scope to continue to hold prices

Decisions by co-ops to hold their January milk price shows that they have the comfort to hold milk prices when volumes are low, and bearing in mind that they did not pass back the full benefits of the strong 2017 buoyancy for most products.

February supplies typically account for 3.7% –  slightly more than the January 2%, but still very modest amounts.  Holding the price for February milk is not an unreasonable or unrealistic ask, despite lower returns.

Farmers have had a tough early spring, calving and trying to spread slurry in the most wintry and difficult conditions in recent years.  In addition, they will have extra costs on slurry management this year, arising from the new conditionalities of the renewed Nitrates Derogation.

It is essential that co-ops would work hard to show farmers how they are going to optimise market returns in their best interest, in a year in which production challenges on farms will at least match challenges on the market place.


CL/IFA/16th February 2018[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

January 26, 2018

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]While supplies are booming, demand remains strong

In a report this week, the British AHDB pointed out that, while November milk deliveries from the five main producing regions were up almost 4% by comparison with last year, an annual comparison shows a more modest increase of 3.5 billion litres or 1.2%.

With the UN FAO estimating that demand is continuing to grow by between 1.7% and 2.1%, AHDB stress that the annual increase in milk production should not create a major imbalance in global markets in 2018.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Source: AHDB Dairy (UK)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Milk supplies are rising, especially EU output – however, the comparisons are somewhat distorted by the reduced deliveries in the last quarter of 2016.

The Netherlands – whose herd reduction limited 2017 production somewhat –  was the only dynamic EU dairy country to register a decrease.  Milk collection were down 0.26% in December, and the annual production was back 0.2%.

December supplies in Germany are estimated by FCStone International to be up 5.2% (after a 6.4% increase for November), while French output is believed to be up 2.6% up for December (5.4% up for November).

December 17 UK production is estimated at 3.5% up on December 2016.

Winter Olympic games boost already fast rising Korean dairy demand

Korea’s Winter Olympic Games  from 9th to 25th February will boost demand for dairy products with an influx of visitors.  Already in 2017, dairy imports for the January to November 2017 period have increased by over 20% to just over 254,000t.

The most significant increases were in cheese (up 17%), whey powder (up 12%) and SMP (up 24%).  The top three sources of those imports were the US (over 71,000t of products, a 32% increase year on year), the Netherlands (31,500t up 26%) and New Zealand with just under 27,800t.

Fresh cheese imports increased 16% to 77,800 tonnes, while hard and semi-hard cheeses, which are gaining in popularity, went up by 22%, led by cheddar (an interesting fact, in light of the potential implications of Brexit for our own cheddar marketing).

Commentators from Agra Informa add: “The Olympics may spur a fitness kick among health-conscious Koreans, and if so whey powders aimed at this market is a trend to watch.”  The graph below shows that they imported 63,500t of the stuff already last year![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Source: IEG Vue – Dairy Markets[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Strong growth in exports to continue, predicts EU Commission

The EU Commission estimates that 776,000t of SMP were exported out of the EU in 2017, up 35% on 2016 – so an awful lot of powder went out to commercial markets, not into intervention, in 2017!  For 2018, they expect a further 6% increase in SMP exports.

2017 exports of butter were slightly down – we remember shortages caused prices to sky-rocket – and the EU Commission expects them to be a little lower again in 2018.

What they expect to see, is more cheese and WMP.  On whole milk powder, they expect a slight increase from 674,000t to 677,000t, while cheese exports, already up 6% in 2017 to 848,000t could lift to 907,000t, another 7%.

Two positive January GDT auctions reflect lower NZ output forecasts

New Zealand milk production for December 2017 was down 4.6% in milk solids, and 2.6% in volume.  Fonterra’s December collection were down 6%.  For the calendar year January to December 2017, national milk solids output was 1.76% up.   Reviewed forecasts of milk production by Fonterra for the 2017/18 season (July 17 to June 18) suggests it may fall by 3% relative to previous season.  Weather factors, especially moisture deficits in the North and South Island at and immediately after peak, explain the drop in output.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Source: DCANZ[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The impact of the reduced output and the expectations of lower production for the whole season has been felt in the first two GDT auctions of 2018, which showed a weighted average price increase of respectively 2.2% and 4.9%.

This still leaves SMP prices at US$600/t less than it was last year, though butter has made a good recovery in the last two auctions.  Together, they would return a gross milk return equivalent of 31c/l before processing costs are deducted.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Source: GDT[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Spot quotes stabilising 

It has been some time since we have last seen the FCStone International spot quote table coloured entirely in green (positive price trend) or blue (neutral price trend).

For the week of 24th January, spot butter prices in Germany, France and the Netherlands rose by around €48/t on average, with SMP up a modest €12, and whey powder also slightly up (see table below).

This follows two positive GDT auctions (see below), and the apparent stabilisation of EU average dairy product prices on the positive side (also below), and the sale of 1800t of SMP out of intervention for nearly €200 less than the average spot at the more negative end.

Could it be that market prices are stabilising somewhat, despite the intervention stock overhang?[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Source: FCStone International[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Average EU dairy prices reported for 21st January 2018 also appear to mark a beat after weeks of slow decreases.  There are little or no changes in the last two weeks for butter, cheddar, SMP and whey powder prices.  Whole milk powder prices have even lifted by a small €30/t.[/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]Gross returns have eased by around 7c/l gross since September last, so there is still a legitimate concern about dairy commodity and milk price trends for spring of 2018.  A representative product mix for Irish milk would have, if traded entirely on 21st January average product prices, yielded a gross return of 33 to 34c/l approximately before processing costs and VAT.  That would be a farm gate milk price of around 30.6c/l incl VAT.[/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]CL/IFA/26th January 2018[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]


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