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Dairy prices end four-month losing streak

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Dairy prices ended a four-month losing streak at GlobalDairyTrade amid ideas of support from a milk production slowdown, with peak output past in the northern hemisphere and the likes of New Zealand still in the low season.

Prices at the twice-monthly auction, run by New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra, rose by 0.9% - the first increase since the February 4 event.

The increase retraced only a fraction of the 26% decline that dairy commodity prices suffered during the losing spree, blamed on seasonally rising production in the northern hemisphere after a strong season for New Zealand, the top milk exporting country, and softer Chinese import demand.

"After frantic purchasing in the first quarter of 2014," fuelled by a period of tariff concessions on imports from New Zealand, "Chinese importers have exited the market as they look to run down accumulated inventories," Rabobank said on Tuesday.

However, the bank added that "these lower prices are enticing other buyers back into the market".

'Buyers re-entering the market'

Already in the European Union, there had been signs of dairy commodity prices stabilising and, in some cases, rising with average prices of butter rising by 0.2% in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands between May 26 and June 8, according to Eucolait.

Skim milk prices rose 1.0% during the period.

"This potential rebalancing of prices could be an indication that buyers are re-entering the market to cover longer term needs and are not expecting prices to fall further, especially as production has now passed its peak in the northern hemisphere," the UK DairyCo bureau said.

Milk output typically peaks in the EU in around April, with the so-called spring flush in volumes encouraged by strong pasture condition, and when cows are freshly back into production.

In the UK, for instance, milk deliveries had fallen back to 41.3m litres on June 7, the latest day for which data are available, from a 2014 high of 43.8m litres on May 3.

Australia and New Zealand, meanwhile, are in their low season, with output not set to peak until around October.

Skim milk vs whole milk

The increase in GlobalDairyTrade prices was led by butter milk powder, which soared by 17.0%, with rennet casein gaining 4.6%.

However, signally, the price of whole milk powder, which accounts for most volumes traded, also rose, by 2.4%, offsetting falls in prices of skim milk powder, of 0.2%, and of anhydrous milk fat, which dropped by 3.8%.

The outperformance of whole milk powder versus skim milk powder, closing an unusual discount, was a supportive sign for prices, a dairy investor told Agrimoney.com.

'Unsustainable discount'

The discount of whole milk powder, which reached $269 a tonne at the previous auction, was "unsustainable", the investor said, with the product, in containing fat, usually trading at a premium, which averaged $282 a tonne over the previous year.

"The question was whether skim milk powder would go down to meet whole milk powder, or vice versa.

"The fact that whole milk powder rose looks like a sign of demand at these lower prices which bodes well for a stabilisation in the market."

Whole milk powder reached a discount of $374 a tonne to skim milk powder early last year – only to gain a premium of more than $1,000 a tonne within three months.

By Agrimoney.com

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