Dairy market: What to expect in 2018

Global milk supplies grew, butterfat prices went sky high and skim milk powder prices remained depressed. This is in short what the global dairy sector experienced in the last 2 quarters of 2017.
The pace of growth in milk supply has moderated, and cull rates are increasing. Access to affordable feed is underpinning the growth profile.
The gradual rebuild in milk supply across South America continues. As local consumption is trending higher, there is limited space for growth in exportable surpluses.
Milk prices have started falling across Europe. But solid rouphage stocks and expanding herds will support milk production growth through the first half of 2018.
Further downward revisions for Chinese milk production in 2017 have been the catalyst for sustained import volume growth, with a shortfall to persevere in 2018.
After a slow start of the season, a recovery in milk production is gaining momentum, and favourable conditions will ensure a plentiful supply of feed through the second half of the season.
Unfavourable weather continues to hamper New Zealand milk production this season. A wet start has quickly become dry, which is restricting grass growth and limiting feed reserves.

Dairy commodity prices

Looking forward, growth in milk supply in the Big 7 continued in Q3 2017 at 2.2%. This is the fastest pace since late 2016. Rabobank expects that this growth will continue throughout 2018, but at a slower rate. Regarding milk prices, the bank forecasts that prices will be eased. The first signs of weaker milk prices (in local currency) have emerged in a number of export regions. In China, milk prices continue to inch higher, but ongoing industry consolidation and unfavourable weather have hampered production growth.

What to watch in Q1 and Q2

According to Rabobank, several situations need to be watched in the new year. The drought in New Zealand for example. But also the fact that intervention stores will open in Europe from March 1st 2018, with the European Commission carrying 376,000 tonnes of skim milk powder. Also the risk of a US exit from NAFTA has increased after 5 rounds of ‘modernising’ the agreement have failed to advance amendments to the existing agreement. 2 more rounds are scheduled for 2018. Also, Chinese regulations need to be watched. China is tightening environmental protection regulations, with local government zones prohibiting animal farming in certain regions. Furthermore, tensions in the Middle East have escalated, although this didn’t lead to discernible impacts on the dairy market yet.

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