Global dairy prices continue to tumble

Russian ban, growth in milk production pressure prices downward, according to Rabobank quarterly report


Prices in U.S. wholesale markets have further to fall in coming months, and the onset of price recovery may also kick in later, as the local market cycle continues to lag behind the offshore market, according to the latest Dairy Quarterly report from the Rabobank Food & Agribusiness Research (FAR) and Advisory Group.

The report also finds international dairy markets continue to suffer from low prices, though the rate of decline in the price of dairy commodities has slowed compared to that seen in Q3-2014. 

Exceptional milk production growth in export regions in the last nine months has outstripped weak local consumption, boosting supply in the international market and forcing prices to fall. However, low prices have succeeded in clearing huge volumes, with trade growth up 15 percent year on year. While Rabobank believes that there are signs of price stabilization, climbing off the market floor may take some time.

“Low prices were required to help clear a market still dealing with exceptionally strong supply growth, a rising U.S. dollar, a weak economic environment and reduced buying from China and Russia,” said Rabobank analyst Tim Hunt.

China has continued to buy far less from the international market than this time last year – with incoming shipments down almost 50% in October year-over-year as the country continues to work its way through excess inventory. Meanwhile, Russia’s enforced ban on imports from key suppliers has meant that globally, prices have had to fall by 30-50% from their peak, to encourage buying from second-and-third- tier importers, such as South-East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, to clear the market.

While these markets have taken advantage of discount products, helping to avoid the accumulation of supply-side stocks, the challenge of avoiding stock accumulation will likely become greater in coming months. Much depends on how quickly the world’s dairy suppliers respond to recent price cuts.

Low prices, compounded in the EU by the risk of super levy payments, should see producers in many export regions hit the brakes in first half of 2015. Together with some improvement in consumption in the US, and to a lesser extent the EU, this will reduce the amount available on the international market in 1H 2015. However, this is unlikely to prove sufficient to generate any meaningful price recovery as demand looks set to continue at weak levels due to Chinese purchases tracking below the prior year and a continuing Russian trade ban.

Rabobank expects the market to gradually tighten in second half of 2015. However, it may take a weak southern hemisphere production peak in 2015 to finally tip the balance for a price recovery to gain momentum.

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