By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine Milk Market Moos
“The next six months will be better than the last six months with a better milk price,” said Dr. Normand St-Pierre of Perdue Agribusiness speaking at a meeting of dairy farmers this week. Global milk production is down 1% year-to-date, global skim milk powder stocks are low, and the world in general is short on butterfat, he said.
In fact, milk and dairy products are experiencing spot shortages in U.S. retail and foodservice channels. Kraft-Heinz, for example, is reporting sustained demand for cream cheese with sales up 35%. Reduced butter production vs. year ago has met increased drawdowns to bring cold storage stocks well below year ago.
On the CME spot market on Dec. 14, butter was pegged at $2.06, with high sales on two loads at $2.10. Nonfat dry milk crossed the $1.60 mark and stood at $1.64/lb, pushing Class IV milk futures solidly into the $20’s with a 12-month average of $20.21 as of Mon., Dec. 13.
Class III milk futures moved well into the $19s across the 12-month board with December and January topping the $20 mark Monday (Dec 13) fueled by the strength of a rising block-Cheddar price, pegged at $1.94/lb Tuesday, Dec. 14 and steadily rising whey prices pegged at 71 cents/lb. The caveat is the 500-pound barrel cheese price is moving more slowly, pegged at $1.67/lb Tuesday — 27 cents behind the 40-lb block price.
St-Pierre sees the milk check butterfat price averaging $2.30 over the next six months, and he thinks it could actually go higher, while protein should average $2.80. Mid-December milk checks will price November butterfat at $2.15 and protein at $2.75. Nonfat solids are also higher, and other solids are almost double the historical average, driven by the robust whey sales.
A more conservative USDA World Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report on Dec. 9 forecast higher prices for butter, cheese and whey with NFDM unchanged in 2022, but current trends suggest this report could revise upward in January, although much hinges on consumer responses to inflationary pressure in their buying habits. The report did nudge the 2021 All Milk price average to $18.60, buoyed by yearend strength. The WASDE report forecasts a 2022 All-Milk price of $20.75, which some analysts believe to be a low-end projection given current market indicators.
If current futures market levels are realized, these higher trending milk prices should help dairies keep pace with rising input costs. In addition, risk management tools and margin coverage options will help sync both sides of the milk price / feed cost equation in this inflationary environment.
Overall, domestic demand is strong but challenged by spot shortages and higher retail prices. As global prices are also rising, U.S. exports have continued strong even in light of overseas transportation disruptions.
Risk management will be important, despite uptrending dairy product and milk prices because costs for feed and other inputs are also rising, and the effect on demand down the road from inflationary pressures and global uncertainties is difficult to forecast. One caveat that is mentioned by market analysts is China’s large purchases of whole and skim milk powder on global markets over the past six months have accumulated a stockpile that could reduce China’s purchases in the coming year.
Still, the Global Dairy Trade (GDT) biweekly internet auction on Tues., Dec. 7 moved higher on all products with the GDT index up 1.4% from November 30 to its highest level since January 2014. The GDT butter price jumped 4.6% over the two week period to the highest levels since February, and most of that increase was in the nearest term delivery months. Skim milk powder (SMP) was up 1.3% to levels not seen in more than five years, with the strongest increase (+3%) seen on global SMP for delivery six months ahead in May 2022.
Dairy Margin Coverage Note: USDA announced last week that the Dairy Margin Coverage signups for 2022 enrollments began Dec. 13, 2021 through Feb. 18, 2022. Dairy producers wanting to update production history (up to 5 million annual pounds) by verifying 2019 milk marketings will receive supplemental coverage retroactive to January 2021 and ahead through 2023. This updated production history must be done first the local FSA office before enrolling 2022 DMC coverages. The new feed cost calculation using higher quality alfalfa prices is estimated to add 15 to 22 cents per hundredweight to previous DMC payments retroactive all the way back to Jan. 2020. FSA offices confirm receiving funds this week to finally do these retroactive feed-cost-adjusted DMC payments — automatically — very soon for all producers who were enrolled in the program for 2020 and/or 2021.