Rural round-up

August 15, 2014

Commission releases draft report on 2013/14 review of Fonterra’s base milk price calculation:

The Commerce Commission today released its draft report on Fonterra’s base milk price calculation for the 2013/14 dairy season. The base milk price is the price Fonterra pays to farmers for raw milk.

The Commission is required to review Fonterra’s calculation of the base milk price each year as part of the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act’s milk price monitoring regime. The review assesses if Fonterra’s calculation approach provides incentives for it to operate efficiently and provides for contestability in the market for purchasing farmers’ milk.

The scope of the Commission’s review is only to look at the base milk price, not the retail price that consumers pay for processed milk. . . .

 

Fonterra’s farmgate milk price out of step with efficiency – Pattrick Smellie:

 (BusinessDesk) – The Commerce Commission says Fonterra Cooperative Group’s decision to cut the last season’s forecast payout to farmer shareholders by 55 cents per kilogram of milksolids below the result produced by its Farm Gate Milk Price calculation is not consistent with the milk price regime’s intention to make Fonterra operate efficiently.

However, it says the decision – the first ever taken to vary the payout from the calculated level since the Farm Gate Milk Price regime came into force in 2009 – was consistent with ensuring competitive provision of milk to alternative suppliers, the commission concluded in its annual review of the regime.

Under the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act, which allowed a merger to create Fonterra despite creating a dominant local market player, the commission must monitor how Fonterra sets the price it pays farmers for milk as part of efforts to ensure it’s possible for local dairy market competitors, such as Synlait or Westland Milk, to emerge.

Under the monitoring and reporting regime, the commission has no ability to force any change on Fonterra. . .

 

Latest dairy farm visits reveal poor record keeping:

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Labour Inspectorate has released the results of the third phase of its national dairy strategy, which involved visits to farms that employ migrant workers.

The findings show that while no exploitative conduct was found, a quarter of the farms visited were in breach of employment laws for poor record keeping.

Senior Labour Inspector Kris Metcalf says the visits were part of a long-term operation to check compliance with minimum employment obligations at dairy farms across the country.

“The majority of the 42 dairy farms visited in this phase were meeting minimum employment standards,” says Kris Metcalf.

“However, 11 farms were found to be in breach of their minimum employment obligations which is disappointing. . .

Government migrant dairy worker survey highlights procedure hole:

Following the third phase of the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) dairy strategy, focussed on migrant workers, Federated Farmers knows a sizable minority of farmers still need to meet basic employment law and the Federation is offering to help.

“The latest information from MBIE shows that there has been a significant improvement in the performance of dairy farmers, but far too many are failing to take accurate time sheets seriously enough,” says Andrew Hoggard, Federated Farmers Employment Spokesperson.

“We are pleased MBIE inspectors did not find any exploitative behaviour of migrant workers on the 42 farms they visited. That said we’ve still got a bit of work to do with our guys on record keeping and basic employment practices. . . .

Softening the dairy blow:

• NZ dollar is under pressure
• Interest rate predictions delayed
• Meat sector outlook remains bullish

While eleven of the last twelve dairy auctions have recorded price falls, the sheer magnitude of the falls is bringing other factors in to play, according to the latest ASB Farmshed Economics Report.

“With dairy prices down by 37 percent on a year ago, the NZD has finally come under some pressure” says Nathan Penny, ASB Rural Economist.

“The NZD has passed its peak. We expect the NZD to trade at around 85 US cents for the rest of the year.”

“The dairy price falls are also a major reason why we’ve pushed back our interest rate call.” ASB Economics now expects the next OCR increase in March 2014 rather than their previous call for a December 2014 hike. . .

 

Working group for dairy processing sector:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced the establishment of a working group to develop a ‘roadmap’ on how to meet the future capability needs of the dairy processing sector.

“This was a recommendation of the independent Government Inquiry into the Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) Contamination Incident last year. It found that our food safety regulatory model for dairy is among the best in the world, but also recommended improving people capability to strengthen the food safety system.

“The inquiry highlighted the shortage of experienced people with processing expertise across the industry’s regulatory sector, and at all levels of the system. . .

 Does Australia want to compete? – Jo Bills :

Recently the Business Council of Australia released a report it commissioned from McKinsey & Co – Compete to Prosper: Improving Australia’s global competitiveness.

It was fascinating reading – taking a helicopter view of the Australian economy and the global competitiveness of industry sectors.

Most of us probably regard Australia as a trading nation, but the McKinsey analysis highlights the fact that our economy remains quite inwardly focussed – while we are the world’s 12th largest economy, we rank 21st in terms of global trade – well behind some that you might assume we should be ahead of.

As part of the study, the McKinsey number-crunchers developed a Relative Competitiveness Score, applied it to all sectors of the Australian economy and found that only one sector – agriculture – stood out as truly competitive. . .

Boost for wilding tree control in Waimakariri:

A group of volunteers dedicated to clearing wilding trees around Flock Hill in upper Waimakariri is to receive a major funding boost, Associate Conservation Minister Nicky Wagner announced today.

Waimakariri Ecological and Landscape Restoration Alliance will receive $309,000 over the next three years from the Department of Conservation’s Community Conservation Partnership Fund.

“Wilding trees are now the most significant threat to biodiversity and infrastructure in the 60,000 hectares of public and privately owned lands in the upper Waimakariri Basin. . .

Forest contractors welcome WorkSafe submission:

Today the government’s safety agency for forestry, WorkSafe NZ, has publicly released its submission to the panel of the Independent Forest Safety Review. The Forest Industry Contractors Association (FICA), the industry group that originally initiated the review, has welcomed the comments from the regulator.

“We’re pleased that some vital issues have been highlighted by Gordon MacDonald’s WorkSafe NZ team,” says spokesman John Stulen of the Forest Industry Contractors Association, “They’ve made some very practical observations vital to making change in our industry.”

Stulen says WorkSafe NZ has been open and frank in their criticism of some shortcomings, yet has also been constructive at the same time. . .

Feed Partnership Set to Shake Up South Island Mag Regime:

South Island dairy farmers can now reap the rewards of a revolutionary new Magnesium product, which is transforming Magnesium use in dairying.

Animal feed ingredient supplier, BEC Feed Solutions, is partnering with South Island animal feed manufacturer and blender, James & Son (NZ) Pty Ltd, to give the region’s dairy farmers convenient access to its Bolifor® MGP+ product.

Bolifor® MGP+ is a unique alternative to messy pasture dusting and laborious daily drenching, and contains the essential minerals Magnesium and Phosphorus in the one product. It’s anticipated thatBolifor® MGP+ will be well received in the South Island, given that farmers, vets and animal nutritionists are observing an increase in Phosphorus deficiency due to the region’s dependency on fodder beet crops and changing land use. . .


Rural round-up

December 19, 2013

SFF implements salary freeze – Nigel Stirling:

Silver Fern Farms (SFF) is implementing a salary freeze as part of a range of measures to get the meat processor back to profitability.

The move, revealed at the company’s AGM in Dunedin today, holds all salaried employees’ remuneration at current levels for a period of 12 months.

The company last year paid wages, salaries and benefits of $315.1m, up from $290.2m the previous year.

Chief executive Keith Cooper outlined further steps to turnaround the company’s performance including land disposals and exiting some stock financing arrangements. . .

Farming – change the perception – Will Wilson:

Agriculture must tread carefully in its bid to attract new entrants to ensure it does not undervalue and trivialise the incredible amount of hard work and education required to be success in the industry.

Agriculture is such a catch all term for a huge range of very specialist professions, yet from the outside the perception is the drip fed image of the village idiot on a tractor or the floppy haired Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in his cable knit.

As an industry agriculture continue to pander to this image because it’s media friendly and easier than finding out and explaining the real demands of modern agriculture. . .

Financial report shows agriculture is well on track:

Federated Farmers is pleased to see the Government’s half year Economic and Fiscal Update report showing a faster growing economy, with the agriculture industry being well on its way to doubling its exports by 2025.

“We have long advocated for economic restraint, and it is great to see the $86 million surplus forecast for 2014/15 is up ever so slightly on the surplus forecast in May,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“Agriculture has had a great start, with the tradable sector growing 11.1 percent since 2009 compared with non-tradeables up 6.6 percent, however resource pressures are growing and next year we will likely see a tightening of monetary policy to dampen inflation. Farmers and exporters will need the Government to keep spending and debt under control in order to take the pressure off interest rates and the exchange rate. . .

Commission releases final report on Fonterra’s milk price manual:

Issued 16 December 2013, Release No. 56

The Commerce Commission has today released its final report on its statutory review of Fonterra’s milk price manual. The manual determines how Fonterra calculates the farm gate milk price, which is the price paid by Fonterra to dairy farmers for their raw milk.

This is the first of two statutory reviews that the Commission is required to undertake each milk season under the 2012 amendments to the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act 2001 (DIRA).

The Commission has concluded the 2013/14 Milk Price Manual is largely consistent with the purpose of the DIRA milk monitoring regime. . .

MG lifts milk price to $6.25/kg :

MURRAY Goulburn (MG) has announced a third step-up in the farmgate price (excluding the NSW-Sydney region) for the 2013-14 season of $0.18 per kilogram butterfat and $0.38/kg protein.

This step-up takes MG’s weighted-average, available price to $6.25/kg milk solids.

MG has also increased its end of season forecast to a range of $6.30-$6.50/kg milk solids.

“Global demand for dairy foods remains strong and as a result prices for key dairy ingredients, such as whole milk powder, have remained at near record levels for an unprecedented period,” MG managing director Gary Helou, said. . .

Canterbury style zone committee comes to the Wairarapa:

Federated Farmers’ Wairarapa welcomes the formation of the Ruamahanga Whaitua Committee and its commitment to balance environmental and economic values for the Ruamahanga Catchment.

“The Whaitua committee makeup is well balanced to deliver sustainable and workable rules for the Catchment and the Wairarapa,” says Federated Farmers’ Wairarapa provincial president Jamie Falloon.

“We thank the people involved for putting their names forward for what will be a pretty busy two year period.

“It will be a challenging process and will require all parties to be fully involved in discussions to find outcomes that are what the community wants. . .

Workshops help dairy farmers drive better production and profit:

Farm nutrient company SealesWinslow is running a series of seminars and workshops to help dairy farmers achieve higher production, margins and profits.

SealesWinslow’s “Routes to Profitable Milk Production” roadshow, which kicked off in the Waikato in late October, has been rated highly for content and relevance by farmers attending.

Animal nutrition expert for SealesWinslow, James Hague, has been demonstrating how farmers can master the art of balancing the diet to fully feed the herd and benefit from better production from grass, higher production per cow and per hectare, higher margins and more profit. . . .


Why all the fuss?

March 28, 2012

When proposed changes to the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act were announced Fonterra’s strong and very negative  reaction was unexpected.

The company and many of its shareholders made submissions during the consultation period and it appears most of the issues which had caused concern have been addressed in the bill which was tabled yesterday.

Fonterra chair Sir Henry van der Heyden said in a newsletter to shareholders that the company is broadly comfortable with the changes though will be seeking some technical changes.

It makes me wonder why they made such a fuss in the beginning.

The bill details proposals to oversee Fonterra’s farm gate milk price setting and ensure a more transparent and efficient dairy market. Changes to raw milk regulations are still being considered.

Primary Industry Minister David Carter’s media release on the bill is here.

More details on the bill are here.


NZers won’t gain from DIRA changes

January 31, 2012

Fonterra doesn’t usually pick public fights with the government but it is making no secret of its strong opposition to proposed changes to the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act.

I’m not sure what further scrutiny of the way the company sets the price of milk is supposed to achieve in theory. In practice it will add compliance costs to the company while looking at only one part of the production chain from paddock to the consumer.

That is however, a relatively minor inconvenience compared with the proposed changes to Raw Milk regulations which Fonterra chair  Sir Henry van der Heyden said won’t work and will have New Zealanders subsidising increasingly foreign-owned dairy processors that don’t sell milk in New Zealand and who send their products and profits offshore.

Fonterra’s Shareholders’ Council chair Simon Couper (not online) says:

“Competition is good as it ensures our Co-operative stays lean, efficient and competitive however, there is no successful example in economics where a business is forced to subsidise its competitors, says Couper.

“The Government’s legislation proposes that New Zealand subsidise increasingly foreign-owned competitors while doing little or nothing to ensure milk is available to those processors who need it most or who assist the domestic market . . .

Based on 2011/12 projections less than half of the 570m litres supplied to other processors  this season will make it to the New Zealand domestic market with approximately 300m litres (53%) forecast to go to Independent Processors who primarily export product overseas.

Of that 300m litres two-thirds is claimed by processors with some level of foreign ownership.

“When one sector of an industry has to subsidise another it creates inefficiencies and false economies.

“This proposed legislation would further fragment the New Zealand dairy industry and weaken New Zealand’s export returns, strengthening our overseas competitors at the expense of the New Zealand economy and the average New Zealander.

 Federated Farmers also says none of the proposed changes will reduce the price of milk for domestic consumers:

“Not one of the changes proposed to the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act, or its regulations, will make milk any cheaper in the supermarkets,” says Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson.

” . . . One of our Wellington staff members tells me Karori New World has been selling two litres for $3, as long as you spend $25 in-store.

“At that price, it is identical to what Cole’s has been selling milk for in Australia, once you take out our GST and exchange rate differences.

“What concerns me is that people seem to think farmers get all of the value from retail milk sales. I can tell you our share in a one litre carton of retail milk is around 360 millilitres.

“If someone’s skimming the cream I’d suggest looking harder at the wholesale and retail ends. How come Karori New World can sell two litres of milk for $3 but another New World sells an identical bottle for $3.72?

“That’s where the margins are, instead of the farmer who produce the milk in the first place.

“So what people need to really ask of the Government and of proposed changes to the DIRA is this; where is the domestic competition? Not just at the supermarket but for farmer’s milk itself.

“Precious few of the processors who take this milk, bottle it and then put it onto the shelves of supermarkets or dairies. Too few of these processors get milk from the farmgate and compete locally as they do internationally. We really need to know why,” Mr Leferink concluded.

Among those who do supply the local market are boutique cheese and ice cream producers. If the proposed changes are enacted these small locally owned businesses could be squeezed out by bigger foreign-owned companies which then export the milk.

The ODT editorial also raises doubts over the milk shake-up:

In an attempt to placate public concern about soaring domestic milk prices, the Government appears to have alienated our biggest company and largest export earner and also unwittingly assisted its partly owned foreign-owned dairy processing competitors . . .

 . . . Increasing New Zealanders’ access to dairy products is a laudable motive, but there are real doubts that these proposals will do little more than hamstring our largest export earner.   

Farmers at a Fonterra shareholders’ meeting in Oamaru yesterday were united in their opposition to the proposals.

As one asked, where’s the benefit for New Zealand and New Zealanders if the changes won’t reduce the price on the domestic market and will both add to compliance costs for the company and help foreign-owned businesses export at Fonterra’s expense?

People are upset about the sale of farmland to foreigners which will have little if any impact on them. They would be much better turning their attention to these proposals which will help foreign-owned companies at the expense of our biggest exporter and do nothing to reduce the price of milk on the domestic market.


Fonterra opposes DIRA proposals

January 24, 2012

The government has opened consultation on its proposed response to reviews of Fonterra’s farm gate milk price setting and the Raw Milk Regulations.

Primary Industries Minister David Carter says comprehensive work by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, with input from economic, regulatory and legal experts, has resulted in a set of preferred options for amendments to the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA) and the Raw Milk Regulations.

The review recommends:

  • embedding Fonterra’s current milk price governance arrangements in legislation
  • requiring Fonterra to publicly disclose information about its milk price setting
  • introducing an annual milk price monitoring regime to be undertaken by the Commerce Commission

And:

The preferred option for the revised Raw Milk Regulations recommends:

  • a three-season limit for independent processors who source raw milk directly from farmer
  • an increase in the total quantity of milk available under the Raw Milk Regulations to approximately 5% of Fonterra’s milk supply, as currently allowed for in the DIRA
  • a range of maximum quantity limits for independent processors accessing milk under the Raw Milk Regulations in different months to reflect the seasonal nature of milk production.

Fonterra is far from happy and says foreign-owned processors will benefit  at the expense of  farmers and domestic consumers:

Fonterra Chairman Sir Henry van der Heyden said the proposed changes to Raw Milk Regulations won’t work and will have New Zealanders subsidising increasingly foreign-owned dairy processors that don’t sell milk in New Zealand and who send their products and profits offshore.

“The Government’s move to require more raw milk to be handed over to increasingly foreign-owned dairy companies operating in New Zealand will impose nearly $200 million of additional costs over the next three years alone and work against our efforts to reduce the price of milk in New Zealand,” Sir Henry says.

“That’s because not one of the six other major dairy processors supplies milk to New Zealanders,” he says.

“The proposed changes will see windfall profits head straight into the pockets of increasingly foreign-owned dairy co mpanies and will hinder, rather than help, New Zealanders get access to affordable milk.”

The DIRA was supposed to protect domestic consumers and competitors from Fonterra’s dominant position. It wasn’t supposed to protect foreign competitors.


Fonterra’s farmgate price formula sound

July 23, 2011

Competition in domestic dairy production has increased since Fonterra was formed and the way it sets its farmgate milk pirce is sound.

This was the finding of internationally renowned competition expert, Compass Lexecon, which has been ranked as one of the leading antitrust economics firms in the world by Global Competition Review for the past seven years.

Fonterra commissioned Compass Lexecon to provide an economic evaluation of the competitive environment for dairy processing and to also review the methodology for calculating the milk price paid to Fonterra’s farmer-shareholders.

The report found that:

  • There had been a growth in competition in the New Zealand dairy industry under the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act.
  • There has been a significant investment in expanded dairy processing capacity in New Zealand by competitors as well as Fonterra since Fonterra was formed. This investment in new more efficient plant was driving down manufacturing costs.
  • The way Fonterra calculates its milk price – based on global prices for commodities, less the costs of a notional competitor – was correct.
  • Domestic dairy prices in New Zealand have increased less than global prices for dairy product, largely because of the growth of supermarket home brands sold at a discount. (Around 70 per cent of domestic fresh milk sales in New Zealand are now home brands.)

Compass Lexecon endorsed the fact that the Fonterra milk price was based on the costs of a notional competitor using efficient processing facilities, rather than Fonterra’s actual manufacturing costs. It noted that there had been considerable expansion of dairy processing in New Zealand, with more efficient plant commissioned by both Fonterra and competitors: “Even if Fonterra (and other processors) … have higher average variable costs of processing, the farm gate milk price will be bid up by competitors utilising efficient plants,” the report concluded.

“The history of actual expansion by both Fonterra and independent processors … indicates a strong belief by both Fonterra and competitors that they can secure a supply of raw milk at a price that allows them to operate profitably.”

Fonterra Group Chief Financial Officer, Jonathan Mason, said the Compass Lexecon report essentially concluded that the New Zealand environment was fostering competition in the dairy sector and that the way Fonterra set its milk price was fair.

“The Milk Price reflects international dairy commodity prices, less the costs to produce and export those commodities. . . “

This should allay fears that Fonterra is using its dominent position in setting prices which disadvantage its competitors and consumers.

The company has announced that it will be reducing the domestic price of butter and cheese in response to falls in international prices.


Commerce Commission looking at investigating dairy prices

March 31, 2011

The Commerce Commission is doing preliminary work to determine if a price control enquiry into the retail price of milk is warranted.

A number of parties have laid specific complaints with the Commission about the retail price of milk and are calling for the Commission to hold a price control inquiry. . .

“A price control inquiry is undertaken in order to ascertain whether to recommend price regulation of a good or service. Goods or services may only be regulated under the Commerce Act if there is little or no competition, and if the benefits of regulation materially outweigh the costs of regulation. We do not undertake such inquiries lightly,” said Dr Mark Berry, Chair of the Commerce Commission.

There are potentially three market levels involved in the production of milk: the supply of raw milk to milk product processors, the manufacture and supply of milk products, and the retailing of milk products.

“The Commission intends to review the operation of each of these levels and consider whether it should hold a price control inquiry,” said Dr Berry.

The Dairy Industry Restructuring Act aims to ensure that independent processors are able to obtain raw milk from Fonterra at the price which Fonterra pays to its own farmer suppliers. This legislation plays an important role in ensuring contestability in dairy markets. The existence of that legislation would be an important consideration in any decision to commence a price control inquiry. Also important would be whether the increased prices reflect increases in the international price of milk products rather than a lack of competition in New Zealand.

In deciding whether a price control inquiry is warranted the Commission would also need to consider the level of competition between the two major town milk processors and the two major supermarket chains. The Commerce Act requires that there be little or no competition between these parties before regulation can be imposed. Such an inquiry would also need to address the likelihood of potential new competition.

It’s only a week since the Commission said it wouldn’t be looking into the price of milk but the change of mind isn’t a bad thing.

It isn’t launching an investigation, merely doing preliminary work to see if there should be an inquiry.

Dairy products, or alternatives, are important in balanced diets, especially for children, and the Commission’s findings will determine if there should be an inquiry.

Dairy prices are largely influenced by the international market. Higher prices mean we’re getting more for exports which is good for the economy though not so good for people shopping on tight budgets.

Federated Farmers research shows farmers get between 15 and 35% of the retail price of milk which doesn’t look like creaming it to me.

Meanwhile on the other side of the Tasman Coles and Woolworths are facing a Senate inquiry into the milk wars which started in January when Coles dropped its own-brand milk price to $1 a litre.

Hat Tip: Interest.co.nz


%d bloggers like this: