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Dairy drops further

Written By: - Date published: 8:42 am, July 30th, 2014 - 34 comments
Categories: Economy, Environment, farming, national, same old national - Tags:

As expected, Fonterra has dropped the milk solid payout from $7 per kilogram to $6.

The dairy giant announced farm-gate prices sliding to $6 per kilogram of milk solids for the 2014-15 season, after an initial $7 prediction in May.

South Canterbury Federated Farmers dairy chairman Ryan O’Sullivan said the latest announcement was just another illustration of the dairy industry’s volatility.

“The final payout isn’t till this time next year. Twelve months in dairy is a long time,” he said.

O’Sullivan said dairy farming was like any business and there were no guarantees but there was still a fundamental demand for dairy throughout the world.

Hardly unexpected bearing in mind the increased production worldwide and in NZ and the stockpiling that is evident both here and overseas. The NZ Herald has its usual strange headline “Milk cut hits rural folk”. This diminished payout will impact the NZ  economy far wider than just the rural sector, feeding out into the provincial economies and into the cities.

dairy price index

From my view of the market, it is likely that the oversupply in the world traded dairy market will continue to cause the Fonterra payout price to continue to drop over the next years. Certainly the fall shows no signs of diminishing in recent auctions.

As it is, the expected drop in the NZ income will keep reverberating through National’s “rock-star” economy.

The forecast price reduction represents a total drop in payments to farmers of nearly $1.6 billion from Fonterra’s earlier forecast or a cut in farmers’ collective income by roughly $4.3 billion compared with last season’s record pay-out, according to Westpac.

NZ Herald cartoon: Rock star economy – Monday Feb 03, 2014

As the cartoon points out, there is a pile of debt both in the rural sector and throughout the rest of the economy based on the high prices from the the sale of whole milk powder based on sales into China.

NZ Whole milk powder production

As I said earlier in the month.

Despite the blithe words of National and some rather silly bank economists. I’d say that the dairy boom is slowing and possibly over.  Expect steadily falling export prices for a number of years.

In the meantime, under National in its usual short term boom mode, much of the rest of our export tech and manufacturing economy has been stagnating. Once you strip the processing of dairy from our manufacturing sector, what you see is the continued decline of capacity. This feeds into the capacity of other areas like IT exports, which in NZ are often exporting hardware with software.

New Zealand needs a different economic approach for a long term sustainable future that doesn’t rely on strip mining soil and water or other resources.

National is clearly incompetent at heading us towards such an alternate economic future. They have been consistently mismanaging the NZ economy in putting far too much emphasis on resource extraction and the systematic degradation of our ability to earn our own way in the world.

Time to get rid of National’s lack of imagination and long-term planning from the direction of our economy.


34 comments on “Dairy drops further”

  1. Tiger Mountain 1

    The “milk rush” is ending–time!–last orders!

    The small innovative dairy companies will likely keep on trucking though but as the cartoon indeed illustrates thumping great mortgages and loans will still be there to default on or service as the payout declines.

    All those degraded waterways and running down of timber and sheep, was it worth it?

  2. vto 2

    so we get both toxic rivers and no money?

    so we don’t get either laptops and iphones or rivers to fish and swim in?

    talk about a lose-lose …

    who dreamed this shit up?

  3. minarch 3

    how long do you reckon before the govt decide they need to subsidise those “poor” farmers ?

  4. ianmac 4

    Will this impact on the Government’s claim for balancing the books, or will they leave that for the Labour lead Government later this year?

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      I suspect that the incoming government will have a nasty surprise in the PREFU. If it’s a National led government they’ll try to hide the figures as they’ve been doing for the last 6 years and when the figures do come to light they’ll blame Labour. If it’s a Labour led government then their plans will go out the window unless they raise taxes further which will then have National attacking them with the MSM conveniently forgetting that it was National that led us into the crapper.

  5. Tracey 5

    Isn’t the smoke and mirrors with the surplus a part of this argument too? Particularly the unmasking of the rockstar economy as an elvis impersonator?

    Not illegal but bloody misleading


    • minarch 5.1

      shady accounting is pretty standard for these people and their tax-dodging supporters isnt it ?

      • Tracey 5.1.1

        Yes it is. And the funny thing is that although many people who use shoddy accounting for their own purposes are ok with it, they can feel differently if a Govt is using it to claim something not genuine. I think (maybe it is just hope) that a few fence sitting undecideds would look at black and white stuff like this and say to themselves “lying about a surplus?|We are not doing as well as they say? But i was going to vote for them cos they are doing well with the economy.”

        It’s aline I would like to see in debates, in MSM repeated oft by opposition parties. “the government is using shady accouonting to make it seem like the economy is doing well. There is NO suprplus. We are very much in debt .

  6. infused 6

    So it’s dropping back to normal levels now and you are complaining? Typical.

    It was pointed out 3yrs ago this was coming. If farmers took on more debt, then that’s their problem.

    Just like all other markets, this one was in need of a correction.

    • Ennui 6.1

      Cant complain that you are incorrect, it has been as they say a “boom”. I would go further and agree with you that it was also a predictable “bubble” from an investment viewpoint. Those in early enough to reap the rewards of high prices and to repay debt will be reasonably happy, the later money was always going to be marginal and highly risky.

      It will be interesting to watch the farms for sale notices and the company bankruptcies over the next year, I suspect a lot of them will correlate closely with conversions of land that is marginal for dairy.

    • Tracey 6.2

      unfortunately it is the biggest contributor to the imaginary rockstar economy. It’s all this govt has, apart from the results of an earthquake down south

    • disturbed 6.3


      Where’s the new rock star economy then?
      three years ago they weren’t saying we have a rock star economy remember?

      They were warning us all to expect cuts to everything from home insulation to roading projects and rail closures to name a few!!

      So can you assure us that due to your predicted “correction” are your National mates going to honestly warn us tight times are coming again, and cuts in road projects like holiday highways and other services will be cut to citizens before the election?

      • infused 6.3.1

        Google is there. Use it.

      • dave 6.3.2

        a lot of us on here for some time have been saying 1984 all over again .
        except in 1984 we had assets and it was government debt that was the problem this time its the whole society

  7. Bob 7

    LPrent, the dairy price is still close to historical highs (as shown by your own graph) and still above the average price for the past 5 years!
    Also “Fonterra’s milk collection across New Zealand last season reached 1584 million kg MS, an 8.3 per cent lift on the previous season” Fonterra’s chairman John Wilson said http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/dairy/10325510/Farm-income-drop-will-also-hit-community that means instead of earning the forecast $10.24Bn based on last years milk production, they will instead turn over $9.50Bn during a year where there has been a huge increase in supply globally http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/fonterra-slashes-2015-milk-payout-forecast-6kgms-kiwi-dollar-falls-bd-159971.
    What are the laws around supply and demand again?

    • Bob 7.1

      Here is a 10 year graph of global dairy prices for those wanting to look at a more acurate picture than the 11 month graph provided http://www.globaldairytrade.info/en/product-results/

      • Tiger Mountain 7.1.1

        some of us say dairying now at around 7 million cows passed sustainable levels way back whatever global markets might be up to

        • Draco T Bastard


          Our economy needs to be sustainable for it to be economic and it isn’t – especially the dairy herd.

    • Draco T Bastard 7.2

      What are the laws around supply and demand again?

      There aren’t any.

      • Bob 7.2.1

        Great link, thanks Draco.
        The point remains, even if the laws are broken the link between supply and demand remains (just not at a linear correlation as the law states). Supply is up globally at the moment so the price has fallen, not the end of the world (or the dairy industry), just a temporary blip which has been happening every 3 years or so for the past decade.

  8. rich the other 8

    This was always going to happen , the Chinese seem to be applying the same tactics to dairying as they have to mining , build up dependency and the pull the rug out .

    In Ausse it’s coal and iron ore , internationally coal consumption is going through the roof because of the price .

    Debt levels may be high in farming but one dairy farm on average is worth about 10 houses in Auckland , who’s got the biggest problem ??
    At least farming is here to stay , once IT is developed (with the help of the NZ tax payer ) and proves it’s worth it moves off shore , Lanzatec being the latest example .

    Don’t be misled , $6 is still very good money for many , that’s some where around $2200 from each cow .

    • Richard@Down South 8.1

      Actually I’d say they were just acting as a customer… buying what they need for however long they need to, until they can do it themselves…

  9. Ennui 9

    New Zealand needs a different economic approach for a long term sustainable future that doesn’t rely on strip mining soil and water or other resources. National…. putting far too much emphasis on resource extraction and the systematic degradation of our ability to earn our own way in the world. Time to get rid of National’s lack of imagination and long-term planning from the direction of our economy.

    Well said, I have long been of the opinion that these islands soils if managed properly would provide us the basis of a wealthy primary economy. For example we could easily be growing and cropping high value native timber on land we have given over to cows and radiata. The problem was that we have no commitment past tomorrow, we want the fast return.

    The second part of the economic issue we have with resource extraction is that we have never concentrated upon adding value to the extracted substances…just look at the logs going offshore. And that issue compounds because there are so few support industries to leverage the value added industries. Without the support industries we are highly unlikely to be able to develop export industries that are “independent” of our primary industries, no man (or industry) is an island.

    • Draco T Bastard 9.1

      The problem was that we have no commitment past tomorrow, we want the fast return.

      It’s the fast return that’s the problem. 20 years or less for Radiata Pine, 400+ for natives. The former is unsustainable while the latter is.

      And that issue compounds because there are so few support industries to leverage the value added industries.

      And building up those support industries is why we had protections in place.

      • disturbed 9.1.1

        Boom & bust economy we have and will continue to have.

        Not a promised National party “sustained economy”.

        It was all bull—– Time to walk the plank National.

  10. Ad 10

    +1000 Lyn well said, especially that last paragraph.

    • Saarbo 10.1


      Meanwhile the bank economists carry on about the growing demand for protein in Asia. What happened to it?

      • disturbed 10.1.1


        You are a bright individual asking all the right questions.

        What happened to the boom?

        “growing demand for protein in Asia. What happened to it?

        They bought up big time as they began building up their own dairy industry as well, as other continents are also doing…..

        EU & Americas particularly as I have a son in Germany and many farms are springing up there too.
        Our golden dairy age is over like the kiwifruit industry so as soon as we have some world leadership the rest catch on and follow and this drowns the world in cheap dairy and other stuff we used to have the edge on ——

        National– Where again is the rock star economy?

        Will you warn us before the election that its all over now so we can vote accordingly?

        Why are you John Key living in Hawaii so much lately? this may be the sign the dam is about to break.

  11. bad12 11

    Yep, at $6 a kilo for milk solids 20% of the dairy farms,(those with large debt loadings), will according to the Farmers Fed will declare a loss for the financial year,

    The ramifications for the industry if this becomes the norm, i would have picked 5 years out from now for this to be occurring, are dire as Boom for many will simply turn to Bust,

    Should a multi-year payout to the dairy farmers occur at minus $6 then the obvious is that 20% will become effectively insolvent, the receivers will have a field day,

    Its easy to see why two of the major Chinese bankers have recently moved to set up here in New Zealand, after all it is their monies which are at risk here and i am sure that they will personally want to manage the risk as the less than viable units in this new reality are ‘rationalized’,(into what is where the question is begged),

    For the Governments books the persistent RED ink dribbling from beneath the door of Finance Minister English’s office will turn into a flood, the previously announced ‘surplus’, a sleight of hand best described as a ruse dreamed up by a card trickster, take a bow Slippery the Prime Minister, where a surplus is declared alongside the whispered declaration that Government borrowing will ‘peak’ in years following this supposed surplus, will now only be possible if gained via the use of monies sneakily transferred from the sale of the States Assets to the Governments operating accounts,

    You could say that the ‘rockstar economy’ is now about to go through a period of addiction treatment as the supply of its favorite drug is curtailed, if the price of dairy continues to fall, this is going to get very painful with a capital P…

    • Richard@Down South 11.1

      If you have a few 100 million spare, buying farms from farmers who are trying to reduce debt would be a good investment, so perhaps they are just waiting for a bargain

  12. aerobubble 12

    Farm debt will become a growing problem as returns from dairy fall. Couple this with the obvious problem that ChCh rebuild was partly funded by the EQC which now is wipe out. We saved for an Earthquake and it happened, we now need to start saving again!!! Not a pretty picture. Milk going the way of coal.

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