Demand – this has been healthy especially from China as higher domestic milk prices there has likely led to greater milk imports from New Zealand. The number of unsatisfied buyers at recent auctions has been elevated and forward price curves for major products are relatively flat suggesting fundamental strength rather than a near term short squeeze.
Supply – NZ supply as milk production dipped below usual levels in November and with drier weather in North Island extra supply for this time of year will be unlikely.
Fonterra lifted its 2020/21 milk price forecast to a range of $6.90 to $7.50 (up from $6.70 to $7.30 previously) – see graph below.
This being said Fonterra has to be cautious with:
NZ weather conditions – drought can increase the price of feed and deplete water stores for cows and can reduce the ability of dairy farmers to grow feed and ultimately reduce their herd.
challenges from further escalation of COVID – global demand could soften as a result of extended shutdowns, or large falls in discretionary spending.
increasing milk production in the Northern Hemisphere – In Europe and the US, previous dairy stockpiles are now reaching commercial markets which will depress prices.
Strong NZ$ – milk is sold on the GlobalDairyTrade (see below) in US$. If the NZ$ gets stronger it will take more US$ to convert into NZ$ so higher domestic milk prices.
How does the GDT work?
GlobalDairyTrade trading events are conducted as ascending-price clock auctions run over several bidding rounds. In each auction a specified maximum quantity of each product is offered for sale at a pre-announced starting price. Bidders bid the quantity of each product that they wish to purchase at the announced price. If the price of a product increases between rounds, to ensure their desired quantity a bidder must bid their desired quantity at the new, higher price. Generally, as the price of a product increases, the quantity of bids received for that product decreases. The trading event runs over several rounds with the prices increasing round to round until the quantity of bids received for each product on offer matches the quantity on offer for the product (as shown in the diagram below). Each trading event typically lasts approximately 2 hours.
Recently prices on Fonterra’s global dairy auction fell but analysts feel that this is not going to be long-term. The fall has been mainly caused by:
Supply increasing significantly relative to the demand – March, April and May tend to be very productive for northern hemisphere farmers as that is when they have peak supply figures. Furthermore over the summer in New Zealand we have had excellent growing conditions with soil moisture levels being very high for the time of year. This transfers into an increase in available feed for dairy units and increased milk output.
The graph below shows the Global Dairy Trade Weighted Average Prices and it is believed that this drop in prices is not a re-run of the global financial crisis when prices dropped to below US$2,000 a tonne. This was due to stagnant demand which does not seem prevalent today.
It is estimated that a US$1 difference in the milk price between seasons represents about $1 billion in cash flow for Fonterra’s 10,000 supply farms. When you consider the multiplier effect this can translate to 4 times that for the rural sector as a whole.
An initial change in aggregate expenditure can have a greater final impact on equilibrium national income. This is known as the multiplier effect and it comes about because injections of demand into the circular flow of income stimulate further rounds of spending.
Consider a $300 million increase in business capital investment. This will set off a chain reaction of increases in expenditures. Firms who produce the capital goods that are ultimately purchased will experience an increase in their incomes. If they in turn, collectively spend about 3/5 of that additional income, then $180m will be added to the incomes of others. At this point, total income has grown by ($300m + (0.6 x $300m). The sum will continue to increase as the producers of the additional goods and services realize an increase in their incomes, of which they in turn spend 60% on even more goods and services. The increase in total income will then be ($300m + (0.6 x $300m) + (0.6 x $180m). The process can continue indefinitely. But each time, the additional rise in spending and income is a fraction of the previous addition to the circular flow.
The value of the multiplier can be found by the equation 1 ÷ (1-MPC)
You can also use the following formula which represents a four sector economy
1 ÷ MPS+MRT+MPM
MPS = Marginal propensity to save
MRT = Marginal rate of tax
MPM = Marginal propensity to import
With all the hype about the increasing price of commodities and our reliance on this sector to boost the NZ economy, we shouldn’t get too carried away. Fonterra Cooperative Group lifted its forecast 2011 pay-out to farmers to a range of $8 to $8.10 per kilogram of milksolids. Historically the NZ economy has relied on commodities such as wool, timber and more recently meat and dairy. However, the May “National Farming Review” publication came up with four areas of concern:
1. Commodities are volatile: Prices are at the mercy of supply and demand and events like the global financial crisis can have a significant impacts on demand and ultimately price. Furthermore, the weather can cause supply shocks and volatility – see previous post Demand↑ and Supply↓ = Food Prices↑. As noted by the Reserve Bank – “it is fiendishly difficult to predict the future path of commodity prices”.
2. Exchange rate impact: The NZ$ is driven largely by the value of commodities so the recent rise in commodity prices had the effect increasing the value of the NZ$. This smooths the volatility of commodity prices, but can cause problems at the farm-gate. In 2007/08 when dairy prices were high and the NZ$ was also strong, world meat prices were rock-bottom. With the low prices and the high exchange rate meat famers had a bad year whilst their dairy farming counterparts were buying new tractors.
3. Induced supply: When you have high prices for commodities it starts to induce new supply from other countries in that they are trying to take some of the ‘pie’- but ultimately this reduces the price as markets become flooded with excess stock. The US has seen a big increase in dairy exports. It is predicted that increased food production will come from low cost food producers in the developing world who will become serious competition to the NZ farming industry.
4. Deleveraging: there is a widesptread belief that when there is a big payout to dairy farmers people are of the understanding that they are quite well off. However, what they fail to comprehend is that there have been many years of hardship and significant debt – NZ$48bn has beeen accumulated in the 2000’s. Ultimately they have to payoff this debt and only a small part of this income will find its way into the general economy, although services and products associated with primary sector will benefit from a cash injection.
The commodity boom is good for NZ farmers and the economy but there is no room for complacency or becoming a high cost producer.