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Weather events continue to moderate US and EU milk output into Summer

Milk supplies for April 18 lifted a little for the EU 28, at +2.1%. In the US, the growth was quite modest for April (+0.7%) and in May (+0.9%).  Together with a 4% increase for April/May 2018 in New Zealand, this has led AHDB to predict a slight recovery from the trend to March.
However, I would venture to guess that dry and hot weather in North Western Europe, and wet weather in other parts of Europe in May and June will probably moderate growth in the EU 28 again for those months.

Source: AHDB Dairy

Commodity prices strengthened through June – easing somewhat now

EU and international commodity prices have been strengthening since the beginning of the year, in response to strong demand and moderate production growth, especially in the EU 28.

EU average dairy commodity prices as reported to the EU Milk Market Observatory (EU MMO) at 24th June (most recent available as we write) suggested a gross return before processing costs are deducted of 37.93c/l for a reasonably representative Irish product mix.  This was despite a slight easing that week of butter, SMP and WMP prices. After deduction of a nominal 5c/l processing cost, this would be equivalent to a price level of 32.93c/l + VAT (34.70c/l incl VAT).

Based on EU MMO data

The Ornua PPI for June also showed improved butter and SMP returns, rising from 105.4 points for May to 109 points for June.  This is equivalent to a price level – as stated by Ornua – of 31.1c/l + VAT (32.78c/l incl VAT).

Source: Ornua

In recent days, however, some commodity prices have eased a little, influenced by 3 consecutive negative GDT auctions.
Spot prices have also eased, as have futures markets for the main commodities (butter and SMP).

For all that, the combined GDT average price for SMP and butter based on 3rd July results would yield a gross return of 34.64c/l and a price equivalent at Irish constituents of 29.64 c/l + VAT (31.24c/l incl VAT). 

Source: GDT

Most recent European cash market (spot) quotes for butter and SMP (4th July 2018), though slightly easier,  would nonetheless yield a gross return of 39.57c/l and a milk price after deduction of 5c/l nominal processing costs of 34.57c/l + VAT (36.47c/l incl VAT).

Source: FCStone International

Price increases expected, needed and justified for June milk

All these indicators would suggest that a price increase is well and truly justified for June milk – as well as being badly needed by farmers who are now again struggling with fodder shortages, this time due to drought!  What a challenging year 2018 will have proven for dairy farmers!  A market based price increase on June volumes will go a long way to support farmers’ ailing cash flow as grazing grass, never mind fodder stocks, get scarce, and the cost of feed rises dramatically.

 

CL/IFA/12th July 2018                                      

Dairy markets: we have definitely turned the corner

With global milk output growing at much slower rates (just over 1% for March, the level analysts believe is required to rebalance markets), intervention SMP stock shifting more readily, and international commodity price indices on the up, it looks like we may have seen the last of the (base) milk price cuts for 2018.

Source: USDEC

 

EU dairy commodity prices as reported by the EU MMO have continued to firm.  Butter prices have gone up by over €1000/t since January, while SMP has lifted €120/t in the last month (see graph based on EU MMO reports below).

 

Based on EU MMO data

SMP stocks moving at last

SMP prices seem set to recover – though slowly – as intervention stocks are starting to move in earnest at long last.

In the most recent tender, which closed 15th May and was adjudicated yesterday, the EU Commission received bids for 124,360t, with prices offered ranging from €500/t to €1277/t.  The minimum price selected by the EU Commission for adjudication was €1155 – €100 above the April tender – which resulted in 41,598t of SMP being sold between the €1155 and the top price bid.  In fact, the bids exceeded the amount of product available by around 5,000t (there was insufficient stock of the right age in certain countries relative to the bids within the eligible price range).

This means that, since December 2016, over 76,000t of SMP has been sold out of intervention – of which around 65,000t in the last 2 tenders alone.

The EU Commission is expected to increase the quantities available for the June 19th tender to around 149,000t.  It will do so by bringing forward the eligibility date for the stock from product purchased before 1st May 2016 to before 1st June 2016.

Buyers are clearly engaging more with the scheme, and willing to pay more as the fresh market picks up.  This is very positive and holds the prospect that a substantial volume of SMP in intervention could be disposed of before year end.

In recent weeks, traders had been pointing out that the EU intervention stock had become largely irrelevant to the fresh market – and this was showing as SMP prices started firming slowly.

There’s a long way to go, though.  With EU average prices (13th May) averaging at €1440 and latest spot quotes (16th May) at €1490, only this week’s GDT price at US$ 2047 (€1734) exceeds the intervention reference price.

Returns inching up

The returns for the Irish product mix, based on EU MMO reported average EU prices, have lifted half a cent per litre in the last week alone.  This is largely driven by increases in butter, SMP and whey powder prices.

Based on EU MMO Data

An analysis of the most recent EU average returns, EU average spots from Germany, the Netherlands and France and the latest GDT auction earlier this week, show that these commodity prices would justify stronger milk prices than what is currently being paid by most co-ops (even allowing for the much-appreciated support top ups paid by most).

The April Ornua PPI, unchanged from March at 100.4 points (equivalent to 29.6c/l incl VAT), shows that returns available to Irish co-ops have at least bottomed out.  Many contracts will have been signed forward some weeks/months ago at prices lower than the current spots or market averages.

We would reasonably expect to see some PPI improvements in the months ahead, reflecting fresh contracts being signed at higher prices.

The PPI provided its hedging effect last autumn/winter, when it returned more than average EU prices, and this lag effect is operating the other way – at least for the moment.

 

Source: Ornua

CL/IFA 18th May 2018

Dairy Market Blog – 3rd May 2018

Are SMP markets on the mend at last?

SMP prices have languished well below €2000/t since June 2017, after which they staged a free-fall.  They have been below €1500 since November.  In the last few weeks, average EU SMP prices as reported by the EU MMO have first stabilised just over €1300/t, and in the last couple of weeks have even staged a small recovery to €1380 (29th April 2018).  Could it be that we’ve seen the worst of the SMP prices?

While we all hope so, there are a number of indicators which suggest that we might just be right to be optimistic.

Based on EU MMO data

While we all hope so, there are a number of indicators which suggest that we might just be right to be optimistic.

Spot markets too have been rallying of late, now reaching €1420/t on average for the Dutch, German and French quotes on 2nd May 2018.  This is around €200/t above the early April quote for SMP.

Source:FCStone

What is also very interesting to observe is the buyers’ attitude to the SMP intervention stock.  The last tender, on 17th April last, saw for the first time a significant amount of product sold (24,066 t, compared to just around 10,000t sold over the 17 preceding months).  Even more meaningful was the price at which the product sold: poor at €1051, but stable/up for the first time in those 17 months.  Furthermore, the range of prices buyers were prepared to bid at reached above the intervention reference price of €1700 for the first time since last September.  It would seem that buyers are now prepared to pay more for SMP intervention stock.  Some operators have suggested that sellers are now finding it a little easier to dismiss the relevance of SMP stock because it is aging rapidly, and is no longer real competition for the fresh stuff.  Facts appear to prove them right!

Looking at global market trends for SMP, GDT auctions over the last couple of months have shown stronger prices than even European prices. At US$1,999/t at the auction of 1st May, it would be equivalent in Euros to €1670/t.

The GDT butter and SMP price combination reached on 1st May would be equivalent to a gross Irish milk price return (before processing costs are deducted) of 35.65c/l.

Source: GDT

Positive EU price trend extends beyond SMP

Other EU dairy prices have also improved somewhat in April.
Butter prices are nearing €5200/t, a price over twice the butter price of two years ago, WMP has inched up to €2700/t during the month, while whey powder has lifted slightly to finish the month $700/710/t.  All commodity cheese prices have held up well during the month, too.

Returns in terms of cents per litre do reflect the improved average returns – however, where operators have sold on forward contracts signed some weeks back, those would have been at somewhat lower prices.  Hence the Ornua PPI may well end up trailing slightly the EU average returns over the coming weeks, just as it was slightly ahead of them when prices started to ease in the last quarter of 2017.

Based on EU MMO data

EU returns at end April equivalent to 30c/l + VAT

Taking account of recent price improvements, the average returns before processing costs for a representative Irish product mix based on the most recent data for 29th April quoted by the EU MMO now exceeds very slightly 35c/l – or, excluding a nominal 5c/l processing cost, would be equivalent to 30.22c/l + VAT.

While co-ops may have contracts which were signed for lower returns than those, it would appear at least that those will progressively be replaced by higher priced contracts.

This should give co-ops the confidence to continue supporting milk prices, which farmers still suffering from the consequences of the disastrous spring need badly.

Based on EU MMO data

CL/IFA/3rd May 2018

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).

Source: USDEC

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.

Source: Ornua

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.

Source: AHDB Dairy

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.).

Source: ZMB

Source: France Agrimer

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Source: Fonterra

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 

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.

Source: EU MMO

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.

Based on data from EU MMO

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).

Source: Ornua

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


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