Commodity prices then & now

January 23, 2016

Baker & Associates’ excellent weekly AgLetter compares commodity prices 18 months ago with current ones:

Oil price down 70%:     June 2014 ‐ US$103/barrel January 2016 ‐ $US30/barrel

Wheat price down 57%     June 2014 – US$287/tonne   January 2016 ‐ $US164/tonne  

US Beef down 16%       June 2014 – US$2.00/lb   January 2016 ‐ $US1.67/lb

US Lamb down 30%     June 2014 – US$1.37/lb   January 2016 ‐ $US0.95/lb

Whole Milk Powder     June 2014 ‐ $US3459/tonne January 2016 $‐ US2188/tonne

DAP Price down 20%     June 2014 ‐ $US499/tonne January 2016 ‐ $US399/tonne

NZ/US Exchange Rate down 25%    June 2014 – $0.8670    January 2016 ‐ $0.6540

NZ Floating Interest Rate down 1%    June 2014 – 6.07%    January 2016 ‐ 5.1%

NZ Inflation Rate down    June 2014 – 1.6%    January 2016 – 0.1%

It appears that the global economy is facing challenges on a similar scale to those of the GFC five years ago.

In 2008, the problems arose from over‐priced assets in the US and EU markets, and with incompetent finance sectors in those markets.

The current problems appear to arise from a slowdown in the economies of emerging markets (China and India), upon which western markets have become increasingly dependent over the last 10 years.

The implication for NZ agriculture will depend on how the combination of “plusses” and “minuses” balances out . . .

NZ Agriculture Hangs in the Balance

On one hand we have depressed in‐market prices for red meat, grain and dairy produce.

On the other hand we have record‐low interest rates, record‐low inflation, a weaker exchange rate, low fuel prices, low freight prices, low electricity prices and lower fertiliser prices.

We have the TPP about to be signed. We have a low‐cost grass‐fed production base.

There’s got to be something to work with here.

Possibly the biggest challenge is to accept the reality that commodity prices are going to remain highly variable, and that driving Efficiency of Production is the main tool that farmers have to secure profitability in the coming years.

During the ag-sag of the 80s we faced plummeting prices for what we were selling and high prices for a lot of what we had to buy, wide spread trade restrictions and tariffs, inflation nearing 20% and interest rates even higher.

Produce prices are low and not likely to go very high very fast.

But on the plus side we’ve also got lower costs of fuel and other inputs, better trade access, and low inflation and interest rates.

Those of us who survived the ag-sag also know that there’s no point wasting energy worrying about what we can’t control and opportunities from concentrating on what we can control.

P.S. The AgLetter is a weekly publication from Baker & Associates. You can find how to subscribe and back copies here.

It’s always a good read.

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