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Strong Dairy Demand Drives Prices

Robin Schmahl

January 13, 2022

Since the beginning of the year, the markets have shown the battle between perception and reality. Dairy futures increased significantly after the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) panel finding of the inequities of the application of Tariff Rate Quotes by Canada. The panel has given 30 days for Canada to rectify this situation to conform to the USMCA trade agreement. The perception was that this would open up the potential for more exports to Canada, increasing demand at a time when the U.S. dairy herd has been contracting and milk production declining. Any greater increase in demand would mean higher prices.

Buyers became aggressive in the daily spot market, pushing prices significantly higher as they wanted to increase ownership to make sure they would have sufficient product for later demand. This pushed futures contracts substantially higher as short-covering and new buying interest erupted. However, buying interest in cheese waned, resulting in a wave of selling later in the week. Prices of butter, nonfat dry milk and dry whey held and increased through the end of the week. However, even with continued increase of these prices, butter futures fell back significantly.

The market is trying to find the balance between perception and reality. The perception is that exports to Canada may increase. The reality will be whether they do. I know the odds of greater exports to Canada are likely, but we can never be sure unless we see the numbers over time.

The Big Picture

Looking at the larger picture, overall dairy exports this year have been exceptional. Exports for the month of November showed total exports up 18.9% over November 2020, with the value of those exports up 31.5%. Year-to-date exports are 12.0% above the same period last year. The total value of those exports is 18.0% above the same period last. There has been much discussion over the bottle neck of shipping from ports and issues with trucking. However, the dairy industry has been able to thrive despite those issues as clearly seen on the reports.

Large increases of import demand have been see from Southeast Asia as shipments this year are 37% higher than last year. Shipments of dairy products to South America increased 37% as well. Shipments to Central America increased 196%, China up 27% and Mexico increased 9%. There is strong demand for dairy products at a time when some other major dairy export countries have seen reduced production. This has set the stage for a market that is attempting to find a price level at which demand will slow or production will increase. Or possibly both.

Evaluating Cost of Production

High prices cure high prices, but there may be little more to it this year than many other years. Inflation is increasing the cost of goods and services. Feed prices continue to increase. Shortages are evident for many products. This has increased the cost of production significantly. It will be very difficult to forecast a cost of production this year due to a lot of uncertainties.

My recommendation is to utilize hedging strategies that provide for flexibility on some of your milk production. Option prices have increased in value due to the volatility, but there are strategies that can be implemented to reduce the cost yet still provide protection.

Premiums have also increased for Dairy Revenue Protection insurance but still provides a floor to protect against any unforeseen events that could impact the market. With other prices escalating, it will be imperative to protect milk prices with a strategy that provides flexibility. Please call us if you need any help with developing a marketing plan.

Robin Schmahl is a commodity broker with AgDairy, the dairy division of John Stewart & Associates Inc. (JSA). JSA is a full-service commodity brokerage firm based out of St. Joseph, MO. Robin’s office is located in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Robin may be reached at 877-256-3253 or through the website

The thoughts expressed and the basic data from which they are drawn are believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed. Any opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice. Hypothetical or simulated performance results have certain inherent limitations. Simulated results do not represent actual trading. Simulated trading programs are subject to the benefit of hindsight. No representation is being made that any account will or is likely to achieve profits or losses similar to those shown. There is risk of loss in trading commodity futures and options on futures. It may not be suitable for everyone. This material has been prepared by an employee or agent of JSA and is in the nature of a solicitation. By accepting this communication, you acknowledge and agree that you are not, and will not rely solely on this communication for making trading decisions.



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