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Dairy Market Blog – 11th September, 2017

How high will butter prices go?

Severe shortages of butter have developed around Europe, especially for the food processing/food services trade, and prices have continued to lift beyond historical levels with little or no prospect of additional supplies for the short term – what with being past Northern Hemisphere peak, not yet at Southern Hemisphere’s, and with reports that the wet spring may be affecting volumes in New Zealand.

French bakeries have been vocal about the shortages and the price pressure, with reports of 10c price increases on croissants in many of them.  Croissants are made with around 25% butter, so the impact is significant.

The shortages (and the price uplifts) appear less noticeable in the retail trade, where traders have reported resistance to wholesale and retail price increases.

From early May 2016 todate, average EU butter prices have increased from €2500/t to €6390 – a whopping 155% or 2.5 times increase.

Based on EU MMO data

Dutch spot butter prices on 6th September came in at €6950 – within touching distance of €7000/t.

So, just how sustainable are these very high butter prices?  Well, probably not for the medium to long term, even if they are maintained for the next few months by supply shortages.

Industrial purchasers of butter, in the face of very high prices, will at some point consider re-formulating their recipes to use vegetable oil, as the already sizeable differences in price is growing with butterfat price inflation.  Also, as stated previously, while butter retail prices have increased, they have not increased in proportion to the wholesale prices.

So, why have butter prices risen so much so fast?  First, there has been generally less milk produced internationally this year than was earlier expected.  Second, the price of SMP (the “companion” product made with the same milk as butter) has been depressed, so when butter prices were less high, the balance of the two products did not pay processors.  Third, hot weather around Europe this summer has increased ice cream and cream consumption, leaving less for processing into butter.

The manufacture of both SMP and butter in Europe is well down.  For the first half of 2017, over 10% less SMP was made, and over 6% less butter.

Source: EU MMO

As a result, returns from EU commodities as reported by the EU Milk Market Observatory for 3rd September, despite lower SMP and WMP prices, have risen slightly further, to just above 41c/l before processing costs.

Returns continue to justify price increases

Assuming a 5c/l deduction for processing costs, this is equivalent to just over 36c/l + VAT based on the data recorded for 3rd September (see table below).

Of course, this does not necessarily reflect the returns obtained by Irish co-ops in real time.  Some of their contracts will return more or less for some commodities.  However, it is an indicator we follow on an ongoing basis, and it has clearly tracked the fact that strong butterfat prices continue to make up for lower SMP prices.

Based on EU MMO data

Irish butter and SMP prices as reported to the EU MMO for the same date (3rd September) were both below EU levels – below intervention levels in the case of SMP at €1660/t (intervention buying in price in €1698/t) .  However, combined with the EU average prices for the other commodities, the gross returns before processing costs are just over 40c/l – equivalent to a milk price of 35c/l + VAT

Comparing the Irish milk price paid for July with some of the European indices show there is some scope for continued increases – even if the Dutch spot milk price and the LTO league are based on a butterfat level of 4% or slightly higher.

Note: Dutch spot price is ex factory, constituent levels vary

International August/September/October milk price round up

  • Dutch Friesland Campina has lifted its September “guaranteed” price 2c/kg to 40.50c/kg to reflect market returns and the price evolution from its main European competitors;
  • Arla have already announced a 1c/kg increase for September milk, citing also the fast rising butterfat value.  For British member suppliers, this will be equivalent to a price of 30.79p/l (33.00c/l at current exchange rate);
  • Also in the UK, First Milk increased their September price by between 1 and 1.1ppl, to levels of up to 29.05ppl (31.6c/l).   Meadow Foods have announced a 0.85ppl price hike to 30ppl for October milk; Muller also increased their October milk price by 1ppl to 30ppl (32.6cpl);
  • In France, where price increases have been relatively slow until now, largest milk purchaser Lactalis has increased its September A price to 36c/l, following an August price of 35c/l, and a July milk price of 34c/l;  The regional price for A milk in East Brittany for September and October has been confirmed at 33.7c/l.
  • German milk purchaser DMK +2c/l for August to 38c/kg;
  • Further afield, in New Zealand, ASB Markets predict that the stronger butterfat value could lead to an increase in the Fonterra 2017/18 forecast to NZ$7/kg (around 30.4c/l).



CL/IFA/11th September, 2017


Downward EU production trend set to continue

With the EU Milk Market Observatory still stuck on the May figures, Rice Dairy International, a US based dairy risk management consultancy firm,  have extrapolated the fresher statistics available from France, Germany and the UK, which between them represent 47% of total EU production, and come to the conclusion that the slower trend would continue into June and July.

All three countries are down 2.43% for the year todate.  Extrapolating from their most recent weekly data, the Rice Dairy model predicts June EU supplies should be down 1.43%, and July supplies (based on only 2 weeks’ data) down by a further 2.33%.

Source: Rice Dairy International

Analysts from Rice Dairy present these figures in detail in the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrGz1FnObfg&feature=youtu.be

In the Netherlands, the impact of the herd reduction scheme is continuing to be felt into May, albeit in a limited way.  Output is back 0.58% on the same month last year.

Some countries run against this trend however, not least Ireland.

June Irish milk supplies were up 6.1%, with supplies for the year to June up 6.6%, as reported by CSO (see right).

In Poland, output for the year to the end of May was 3.5% higher.

Source: CSO

Global output trends a more complex picture

In the US, third quarter milk supplies were up 2.09%, however, the forecast for the fourth quarter is for similar growth.  The annual volume forecast has been revised slightly downwards between June and July, however, from +2.02% to +1.83%.

In New Zealand, the May supplies in tonnes of milk were down by 0.73%.  Production for January to May 2017 was up by 2%, but because of lower output trends in 2016, the 16/17 season is believed to be closing 1.1% below the 15/16 season.  Reports from the new season, starting June/July suggest that while higher prices have improved confidence, the wild and wet weather experienced in recent weeks has caused its own difficulties.

A confidence survey by Federated farmers of New Zealand suggests stronger optimism, with 1/3 of farmers expecting production to increase on their farms in the new season.  The proportion of farms making a profit has doubled to 55.4%.

Dairy prices: gap between butter and SMP continues to grow

Whether on global or EU markets, butter prices are continuing to rise in reflection of tight stocks and shortages of fresh product, while SMP prices weaken under the influence of the 350,000t remaining in intervention.

Analysts commenting on this week’s GDT auction, which saw a 1.6% downturn, have expressed no surprise at the 4.9% slippage in butter prices.  Some of them even expect to see a return to butter price increases because of the very severe shortages.

ASB economist Nathan Penny said prices were consistent with its forecast $6.75kg/MS for the 2017-18 season.

“Taking a step back, it’s not altogether surprising that milk fat prices took a breather, given the price explosion over recent months. Butter prices, for example, have surged over 35 per cent this year, while anhydrous milkfat prices have lifted a more modest, but still robust, 18 per cent. Both butter and AMF have set multiple auction record highs over 2017.”

“However, we suspect that the slowdown in milk fat prices may be temporary.  Demand continues to surge and inventories are now very tight. As supply struggles to keep up, we expect that any further lift in milk fat prices will lift dairy prices more generally. Such a lift would break WMP prices out of their holding pattern of recent months,” Penny said.

Source: GDT

European dairy prices as reported by the EU MMO have shown a continuation of the butter price increases, and of the SMP slippage.

Butter prices for the week ending 23rd July (the most recent available figure as we write) had increase to €5770/t on average across the EU, albeit with significant differences from country to country.

Hence, the Irish butter price was at a significant discount from that for the same week, at €5190/t.  SMP prices were closer, with the EU average at €1810/t and the Irish at €1790.

In recent weeks, butter price increases have somewhat made up for the weakening of other products, not least SMP and whey powder.  Returns on the basis of a representative Irish product mix have hovered around 40-41c/l gross, so equivalent to a farm gate milk price of 35c/l + VAT.

Factoring in the lower Irish reported prices for SMP/butter, and using the EU averages for the other elements of the product mix (because the EU MMO doesn’t publish individual country prices for those), those gross returns are slightly lower at around 39c/l before deduction of 5c/l processing costs or 34c/l + VAT as a farm gate equivalent.


Based on EU MMO data

Spot prices: some firming of SMP this week

Sport prices reported this week by FCStone international are showing a continued uplift in butter prices in Germany and the Netherland, with stable levels in France.  Average butter sports are reported up to €6300/t.

Even more interesting is a slight pick up in SMP prices in Germany and France, and stable levels in the Netherlands, when SMP spots had been weakening significantly in recent weeks.

Source: FCStone International

Milk spots: the rise continues

Spot milk price in the NW of France (Brittany, Normandy and the Pays de Loire, the most dynamic milk production regions in France) was up to 37c/l.

The Dutch and Italian spot prices reported by the EU MMO have also increased further, to €40.5/100kgs and €43/100 kgs respectively.

Source: Groupe France Agricole

Source: EU MMO

Farm gate milk prices: European competitors are continuing to benefit from stronger returns

European milk purchasers have been increasing July and August milk prices, with Friesland Campina the most recent to announce a 1.5c/kg increase to its August milk price to 38.5c/kg (graph right)
In Irish constituents, this would be equivalent to 32.7c/l + VAT (34.5c/l incl VAT).

Largest French milk purchaser Lactalis, a private company, have announced an August milk price of 35.1c/l, with an expectation of 36c/l for September.

Arla have increased their August milk price by 1 c/kg, which translated into an Arla UK price increase amounts to 0.89ppl.  This takes the standard litre price to 29.98ppl (33.31c/l at current exchange rate).

Source: Friesland Campina

Milk prices – scope for further increases to ensure Irish farmers keep up with EU competitors

Based on the May Farmers Journal Milk Price League, we predict the soon to be published June League will show an average price paid by Irish co-ops of  31.9c/l + VAT (33.62c/l incl VAT).

The graph below tracks the prolonged period of challenging milk prices which has been experienced by Irish dairy farmers.  Since the trough of exactly 12 months ago, prices have substantially recovered by an average of 9.4c/l.  However, they remain below the highest prices seen by farmers in 2014.

*June 2017 – IFA estimate based on FJ May milk price league

Current market returns and the positive outlook for the coming months, underpinned by lower than expected milk output, especially in the EU, would suggest that further milk price increases are both justified and realistic.

Teagasc’s expectations of significant dairy income improvements this year are no surprise with higher volume, good grass growing conditions, a relatively benign cost environment and recovering milk prices.  However, this comes after a prolonged period of low prices and cash flow stresses, which farmers are only catching up with now.  See our press release on this here: bit.ly/2v1wCic

IFA urges co-op board members, when they meet in the coming days to decide on their July milk price, to increase it by a minimum of 1c/l.


CL/IFA/3rd August 2017

Dairy Market Blog – Monday 17th July 2017

World production eases in May

Milk output from the five main global exporting regions fell back dramatically in May, mainly as a result of lower EU output.  French milk production was down 2.9% in May, German output back 2.45% for May, Dutch production was back 0.4% for the month of June, and down 0.52% for the first half of 2017.  This was less of a decrease than expected in light of the herd reduction scheme, but the scheme did allow farmers to outsource the rearing of younger stock, which may have allowed many farmers to actually maintain production.  Of course, it remains to be seen whether the scheme has reached its aims regarding the nitrates/phosphates limits, and whether it will be deemed sufficient effort by the EU Commission.
Danish milk collections were down by 0.7% in May, and a further 2.8% in June.

In positive territory were Italy (+), the UK (+0.58% for June)

Elsewhere, NZ production was back 0.7% for May, -1.1% for the season to May, and US growth was slightly more modest than previous or predicted.  (+1.8% for May).

Source: USDEC

How much further for butter prices?

Butter prices have continued to shoot up, now exceeding €6,200/t on average for German, French and Dutch spots (see table right).  On the other hand, SMP has continued to ease, with spots now averaging just over €1,800/t.  Whey spots are also easing.

Source: FCStone International

EU average market prices, as reported by the EU MMO based on national official reports to week ending 9th July, do reflect the trends set by the spot quotes.

EU average butter prices have continued to rise very significantly, reaching €5,610/tonne, cheeses are also continuing to firm, with Emmental at €4,470/t, Gouda €3,310/t, and Edam up at €3,370/t.  Cheddar is unchanged in the last couple of weeks at €3,590 to €3,600/t.  WMP is a little easier just below €3,000/t while whey powder is well down at €930/t.  SMP prices continue to be pressured by the overhanging intervention stock, which remains at 350,000t after only 140t were sold since late 2016.  The 100t sold most recently was priced at €1,850/t, which on the one hand showed that buyers would pay more than the very low prices they had bid in earlier weeks, but on the other hand was about €150/t below the market price at that time.  It seems that decision did contribute to weakening the SMP market price, and it will be important for the EU Commission to accept higher offers in future.

It is important to note, however, that, compared to 12 months ago, EU dairy commodity prices have strengthened very significantly, with butter 88% higher, cheeses up by between 23% and 42% (Cheddar cheese up 37.5%), WMP by 36% and whey powder by 49%.  SMP had recovered further, but latest price is about 9.5% higher than 12 months ago.

Returns from EU average product prices, expressed for a representative Irish product mix, are being carried by butter, as many of the other product returns are slightly easier.
Gross returns for 9th July prices reached 40.6c/l before deduction of a 5 c/l notional processing cost.  This would be equivalent to a farm gate price of 35.6c/l + VAT.

Source: EU MMO

Irish commodity prices below EU averages

Average EU dairy commodity prices hide a big variation, as can be seen from the two graphs on the right.
The Irish average reported prices are currently below the EU average for both SMP and butter.  The EU Milk Market Observatory doesn’t publish prices for all commodities, nor for all countries.

So, using the current (9th July) Irish reported price for SMP and butter, and the EU average for the other commodities, the gross return before processing costs would be 39.4c/l.

This would be equivalent to a farm gate price of 34.4c/l + VAT.

It should be noted that average market prices reported to the EU MMO do not necessarily equate to the average returns being obtained by individual processors at any point in time – because most processors would have a combination of spot and forward contracts, some at higher, some at lower prices, depending on product and timing/duration of the contracts.  They are however a good indication of market evolution, and closer to current reality than spots.

Source: EU MMO

The Ornua PPI (below right), on the other hand, shows the returns from the balance of products traded by Ornua on behalf of its members in the month for which it is published.  The June PPI increased to 110.0 points, its highest level since August/September 2014 – when the embargo on EU food product imports was first introduced by Russia!  The June Ornua PPI is equivalent to a farm gate price of 31.3c/l + VAT – about what the main milk purchasers are paying for June milk.

Source: Ornua

GDT – will we see continued recovery in WMP price?

The second GDT auction for July is due tomorrow 18th July 2017.  Like the first auction, it will deal with trade for monthly contracts from August 2017 to January 2018 inclusive.  Volumes on offer are no different from volumes forecast, so there should not be any surprise factor for buyers.  The NZX futures for WMP are slightly up for contracts in August to October, butter unchanged, and SMP easier to stable for the period.

It is very difficult to predict accurately the result of the auction, except that it is strongly influenced by WMP, which remains to this day the main product traded through GDT in volume terms.

Source: GDT

Demand: lower growth, but dairy demand still to be among strongest in next decade predicts OECD/FAO

While the FAO/OECD experts have revised down their economic and food commodity prospects for the 2017-2026 period, they note that dairy will be the exception.  They expect demand for commodities, including non-food uses, to slow compared to the previous decade, with growth rates halved for cereals, meat, fish and vegetable oil.

Dairy products, especially fresh dairy products, are a major exception to this trend – mostly due to major per capita increases in developing countries, especially India.

Growth in global consumption of processed dairy products is expected to be slightly slower than in the previous decade, at 1.7% per annum.  The FAO Outlook report however acknowledges the renewed interest in consumption of dairy fat in developed countries, supported by consumer preferences shifting towards healthy diets, and the more positive health assessment of dairy fats.

FAO therefore predicts that consumption per head with grow across all processed dairy products in developed countries, so that dairy will have among the highest growth rates of agricultural commodities.  Income and population growth will both contribute to rising demand.

Chinese imports to grow further in second half

Imports of infant milk formula by China have increased substantially in the 5 months to May, in both value and volume.  SMP volumes are also up by 12%, with value at +30% reflecting stronger product prices.

Cheese imports are also well up, reflecting the greater prevalence of fast food outlet (pizza, burgers…) where cheese is used as an ingredient.  Packed and bulk milk imports are back, both in value and volume.
Rabobank continue to predict stronger imports for the second half of the year, as China struggles with falling stocks and insufficient domestic production.

Source: CLAL

Milk prices – LTO 2016 report and FJ/KPMG Review

They may be historical, but it is worth spending a little time analysing the LTO report on 2016 EU milk prices and the Farmers’ Journal/KPMG Irish milk price review.

LTO, the Dutch farming organisation, keeps a European and global milk price league, updated each month.  It is not an average price paid in each country, but rather the price recorded from 2 or 3 suppliers to a handful of milk purchasers in most EU member states.   It measures prices based on 3.4% protein, 4.2% protein, a 500,000kgs supply, an SCC less than 250,000 and TBC under 25,000.  Prices are also net of VAT.
In Ireland, suppliers to Kerry and Glanbia have participated of old, and more recently, also Dairygold.  The LTO 2016 report shows the average price monitored in this manner for each of the last 8 years.  It does show Irish milk prices – or at least those paid by the three milk purchasers monitored – are poorly placed relative to other EU milk purchasers.  The €28.30/100kgs average for 2016 is €4.15/kg below the average of the three Irish milk purchasers, who together with Dutch DOC Cheese,
bring up the rear of the LTO league.
It is also worth noting that the gap between the average and the Irish milk purchasers’ price is at its widest in bad years (e.g. 2009, 2016).

Source: LTO Netherlands

Quite apart from the relatively poor performance on the European stage shown by the LTO league, the 2016 Farmers’ Journal/KPMG review has also shown a dramatic widening in the gap between best and worst payer over the last 13 years, to a historical high of 6.15c/l in the last year.

Of course, differences in the average constituents produced by farmers come into this difference, as do the fact that some milk purchasers have more access to alternative income streams they can use to top up milk prices.  Neither of these factors can explain all of the gap, nor the fact that it has been widening over the years.

It is important that all co-ops would carefully consider the way in which they pay for milk, their processing and marketing efficiencies, the opportunities to share costs with other processors, their product mixes, the degree to which they benefit – or not – from trading through Ornua versus trading directly, etc.

Farmers have made a solid long term commitment to the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme at a significant cost to themselves.  Co-ops must ensure that they all leverage the unique selling point of our measured sustainability into better markets and product mixes to give farmers equal opportunities to better milk prices regardless of where they produce milk.


Based on: FJ/KPMG Milk Price Review 2016

CL/IFA/17th July 2017

Butter shortages send prices to unprecedented levels

EU butter production has fallen 5.3 % for the first four months of 2017, and by 3.3% for the 12 month period to April 2017, creating a situation of shortages which is leading to huge price increases, with spot prices this week exceeding €6,000/t (see further in blog).

SMP production, meanwhile, has actually fallen back even more (-9.7% for the first 4 months of this year, and -6.4% for the 12 months to the end of April), but the price impact has been far more modest, largely due to the overhanging 350,000t of SMP in intervention.

Milk deliveries in the EU have been a mixed picture, with Ireland, Poland and more recently the UK continuing on the expansionary trend, while larger countries like Germany and France producing considerably less than in the same period last year.  The upshot is a 1.5% fall in EU milk collections for the first four months of the year, and a 1.9% fall for the 12 months to April 2017.

Source: EU MMO

EU dairy market returns continue to rise

While butter prices have continued to rise almost uninterrupted for the past 12 months, now exceeding €5,200/t, other product prices have also improved, some considerably, in the last period especially.  WMP prices now exceed €3,000 per tonne, and Cheddar cheese has also improved, to over €3,500/t.

Most remarkable is the recovery in product prices over the last 12 months, as outlined in the table below, with butter prices lifting by a whopping 82%, WMP by a more modest 40%, Cheddar by 33%, whey powder by 56%, and SMP, limited by intervention stocks despite shortages of fresh manufacture, has nonetheless seen price increases of 14% from what was, in June 2016, no more than intervention buy-in price level.

Based on EU MMO data

In the most recent period, the price of butter has been rising very sharply, but the SMP price has dipped ever so slightly in the last week, more than likely as a response to the EU Commission’s acceptance of bids to buy 100t of SMP from intervention stock at €1850 (about €150/t below the average market rate).  COPA, with IFA’s strong support, have written to EU Commissioner Hogan to urge him and his market management team to accept only future bids at or above the market rate.

Based on EU MMO data

Returns reflect stronger prices

WMP, Cheddar as well as butter have all marked price increases in the most recent week (w/e 26/06/2017).  SMP is slightly down, as is whey powder.

However, overall returns for an Irish product mix, based on the EU average prices for those products, have continued on their upward trend, in view of the high importance of cheddar and butter in the mix.  Gross returns before processing costs now are at 40.03c/l, which after deduction of 5c/l processing costs would yield a farm gate price of 35c/l + VAT, or 36.9c/l incl VAT.

Based on EU MMO data

Spot prices: Butter breaks €6,000/t, but SMP eases

Latest (28th June) spot prices for Germany, France and the Netherlands show a continued massive increase in butter prices, up around €300/t in the last week alone, and breaching the €6,000/t line.

The spot prices are very different from the average market price: while the latter are representative of what products are really traded at on the specific date, the spots are the price at which product is available immediately, outside of any contractual arrangements.  They are revealing of trends rather than actual price levels, and where spots go, average market prices and contracted prices eventually follow.

While the price increases are revealing of the very real shortages of butterfat at the moment, many in the industry are highlighting just how difficult it is proving to translate those big wholesale price increases into the food chain.  Put simply, retailers are reluctant to increase the retail price of butter packets, and meanwhile, the intermediary margins get squeezed.

Source: FCStone international

Market trends also positive elsewhere

The second GDT auction for June, while showing an overall slight decrease of 0.8% caused by the 3.3% downwards adjustment in WMP prices, nonetheless saw continued strong price uplifts for butterfat (AMF + 4.4% and butter +2.9%) and SMP (+1.4%).  While some of the other product prices showed some reduction, the volumes traded are very small by comparison with the other, more influential products.

Source: GDT

The returns for SMP/butter, based on the latest GDT prices, and bearing in mind both the US $ exchange rate and the Irish 3.3% protein and 3.6% butterfat standard, would be around 39.7c/l before processing costs, or assuming our usual 5c/l processing cost, 34.7c/l + VAT (36.6c/l incl VAT), farm gate equivalent price.

The next auction will take place next Tuesday 4th July, and volumes offered match forecasts – this means there should not be any surprise for buyers.

Global output rising more slowly than expected

Global output has been catching up with last year’s levels from Feb /Mar 2017 or so, but the growth has been significantly slower than expected, especially in the last few months – largely because of the lower production in some of the major EU countries.

Source: USDEC

Rabobank Q2 Dairy Quarterly report states “Optimism rising faster than supply”

The Q2 Rabobank 2017 Dairy report highlighted the slower than expected pace of global milk production recovery.  It predicted that New Zealand would have a strong new season start, due to higher milk prices and relatively low production in the same period last year (which would make new season figures look strong by comparison).

Rabobank also predicted that China would increase second half imports despite higher product prices, because it is running out of stock and domestic production growth is slow.  China’s increased buying activity, combined with strong demand from developed countries, would help reduce surpluses and maintain strong dairy prices for the rest of the year.

Their regional analysis is summed up in the table below:

Source: Rabobank

Outlook positive for further milk price increases

The current market situation and outlook clearly suggest that for the medium term, with some variation between commodities, dairy markets will likely continue to return reasonably strong prices, and therefore justify further milk price increases for Irish farmers as well as their European colleagues.

In France, French milk purchasers are all coming under pressure to commit to paying 34c/l for the summer, and many have already agreed to do so, with retailers accepting in a very public way to support them with the corresponding wholesale price increases.

Friesland Campina have announced a 0.5c/kg July price increase to 37.25c/kg (before VAT) – see graph below.

Source: Friesland Campina

Co-op boards will be meeting over the next couple of weeks to decide on the June milk price, and June is for most farmers their biggest milk production month – especially this year, which has seen a 7.3% increase in May production, and will probably see some further increase in June.  These are the two peak months which go towards paying most of the bills and financial commitments.

The justification for price increases is not in question – and co-op board members should come to the same conclusion.

CL/IFA/30th June, 2017  

6th consecutive positive GDT auction sees continued butter/SMP recovery

In an encouraging SMP prices have continued to recover in this week’s GDT auction, increasing by nearly 8% over the previous event.

Butter prices, which have been on the up for the last few months, also continued to push upwards, with a 3.3% increase over the average price reached at the previous auction.

Taking the new increased SMP and butter prices, we calculate a farm gate price equivalent at Irish constituents of 34.05c/l + VAT (35.9c/l incl VAT).

WMP prices eased, with a 2.9% decrease over previous event.  This new reduced price would yield an Irish milk price equivalent of around 29c/l + VAT (30.5c/l incl VAT).

The downturn in the WMP price is what kept the overall average price index increase as low as 0.6%, because by very far the largest quantities of product traded through the auction is always WMP, followed by SMP.

Source: GDT

Ornua PPI reflects improved butter returns into May

The Ornua PPI increased 1.8 points for May trade, to 106.8 points, equivalent according to Ornua to a milk price before VAT of 30.36c/l (32c/l incl VAT), after deduction of their 6.5c/l processing cost estimate.

This reflects improved butter returns during the last month, and seen as SMP prices have also been improving, it is not unreasonable to expect that those may be reflected later on.

Source: Ornua

SMP intervention less of a factor?

The strong increase in GDT SMP price is also reflected in EU average and spot prices.  This is despite the fact that 350,000t of EU intervention SMP continues to overhang the market.  The Commission’s determination not to sell below market price has meant only 40t were ever sold, back last December!  This has clearly paid dividends, as average EU prices are now close on €200/t above intervention buying in levels (see below)

We saw a return to modest levels of buying in from late March , with 7,900 t bought in between 27th March and 21st May.  Few countries were involved: Lithuania, the Netherlands, Germany, the UK and Poland.  This compares with up to 15,000t per week at peak this time last year!

Also, the last week of May saw an end to intervention buying in, as prices continue to recover.

EU dairy prices continue to rise

At €4,850/t for the week ending 28th May 2017, Average EU butter prices have increased massively to historical highs unprecedented in the EU MMO archive of average EU prices, which starts in 2001.

For the last few weeks, the EU MMO has been reporting steadily increasing prices for all the main commodities, as per the graph on the right.

While butter prices have been strong for several months by now, powders had been slow to pick up.  However, both SMP and WMP have improved significantly since late April – by +7.4% and +6.6% respectively.

Overall, the returns from average dairy product prices as reported to the EU MMO as at week ending 28th May would, for a representative Irish product mix, yield a gross 38.52c/l, or allowing for a 5c/l processing cost deduction, a milk price equivalent of 33.52c/l + VAT (35.33c/l incl VAT).

Based on EU MMO data

EU production rising – but relatively slowly as we pass peak

EU milk production has been rising: while remaining below last year’s levels still, the gap has been narrowing.  The January to March period saw a decrease of 2.3% overall, and FCStone International estimate that April EU output, overall, will be down only 0.1% in April.

Source: EU MMO

More recent trends suggest that higher temperatures than average and moisture deficits in April and some of May have affected output in Northern Spain, France, Germany,  the UK and the Netherlands – at least.

Spain, which was down 0.29% for the Jan-Apr period scored a 2.3% increase in April.  France is back 4.17% for the year todate, with a March decrease of 1.24%, and a 4.5% downturn in the 3rd week of May.  The same week in Germany saw a decrease of 3.7% (Germany is now past their peak).  April output in the UK saw no change compared to April 2016, but with a positive (+4.1%) for Northern Ireland and a small negative (-0.8%) for Great Britain.  Belgium, which had increased production significantly in 2015/16, is now well down, by 2.22% for April.   Relative to its milk output, Belgium was one of the largest contributors of SMP into intervention in the last year.

Poland, also a very dynamic milk producer in the post quota era, increased April production by 4.1% year on year, by 7% on a 3-year average, and 12% on a 5 year average.  Production for the first four months of 2017 was up 3.63%.

The lower milk output is naturally being reflected in lower tonnages of certain products being processed, especially SMP (-9% for Jan-Mar 17 compared to 16, and 3.9% down for the full year April 16 to March 17) and butter (-4% for first quarter and -1.5% for the full year) – both of which are undoubtedly impacting price levels.

Source: EU MMO

What outlook for milk prices?

In recent weeks, there have been reports of European processors reducing prices somewhat.  This is in the context of weaker dairy commodity prices in February/March, and milk price decisions being made in most countries for the month(s) ahead, not in retrospect as is the case (uniquely) in Ireland.

Arla cut their April price by 1c/l, though Arla UK held for April and reduced their May price by 0.8ppl, Mueller also cut their May milk price – both causing much anger among UK dairy farmers.

Since March/April, however, as we have shown above, volumes of milk have been relatively slow to build, the determination of the EU Commission not to undersell intervention SMP has been well and truly proven, and strong demand in developed and emerging countries, especially for butterfat and cream, has sustained further commodity price improvements.

Fonterra have not only increased their final forecast price for 2016/17 to NZ$6.15/kg MS, but have also announced a higher initial 2017/18 forecast of NZ$6.50/kg MS.

The outlook for milk prices in the early summer is positive.  We have demonstrated that there is scope for further increases, and IFA has been urging co-ops to lift the May milk price by up to 2c/l.

With a current (April) milk price averaging 30c/l (at 3.3% protein and 3.6% butterfat, not including VAT and based on the heavily West Cork influenced Farmers’ Journal League average), we contend that 32c/l + VAT (33.7c/l incl VAT) is fully justified as a new average for May milk!


CL/IFA/7th June, 2017

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