ANZ Agri Focus

ANZ Agri Focus is a bi-monthly overview of developments in the rural sector, combined with research on topical issues.

Written by ANZ’s Rural Economist, ANZ Agri Focus typically includes feature articles on current topics, a review of the past month and the rural property market. ANZ Agri Focus also includes information on key commodities and financial market variables along with an economic backdrop and information around borrowing strategies.

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April 2019

Primary producers are benefiting from high in-market prices for export goods, which are being fed back to producers through elevated returns at the farm or orchard gate level. Industry confidence varies between sectors with high debt levels in the dairy sector weighing on sentiment. Milk prices are trending up but the dairy industry remains cautious. Dairy farmers are focusing on ensuring their farming operations meet regulatory and consumer expectations, as well as focusing on debt reduction.  Meanwhile, optimism is starting to creep back into the sheep and beef sector. Lamb returns have held at exceptionally high levels throughout the season, while those for beef have been steady. Beef returns have benefited from the emergence of China as a strong alternative market, reducing the industry’s reliance on the United States.

February 2019

The primary sectors are generally doing well at the moment with strong production and prices across the majority of sectors. In-market prices are generally above long-run averages and the relatively low NZ dollar is resulting in greater returns for farmers and growers. Excellent growing conditions have bolstered milk production this season. Meat processing has been delayed as farmers hold onto livestock for longer, meaning heavier stock for processing when they eventually come forward. In-market prices are average or above for virtually all sectors – with wool the only major exception. China continues to become a more and more important market for New Zealand’s primary produce. The flipside of opportunity is vulnerability: we are increasingly exposed to the risks associated with a slowing of this economy, but for now demand from this market is unabated. 

June issue

Feature article: Market update on dairy
Conditions for farm-gate returns in the dairy sector remain favourable. Broadly, we see global milk supply growing at, or slightly below, trend. This should support the durability of the current pricing cycle, but as always, weather developments – especially in Europe and New Zealand – will be important in determining the final outcome. The other support factors are forecast solid demand from a range of key markets and a lower NZD. We anticipate a milk price of $6.75/kg MS in 2018/19, which, despite higher expenditure, will support a solid earnings backdrop.

Education corner: Drivers of Fonterra share price
The drivers of Fonterra’s share price direction since its change in capital structure have been mainly related to five dynamics: the company’s earnings performance; global dairy market conditions; share market conditions; seasonal dynamics; and some ‘one-off’ type events. The lack of a trend higher in key earnings metrics is of concern, as the business has had an increase in core inputs such as capital invested, milk supply. In addition, there have been numerous restructurings of various divisions and partnerships, and generally favourable growth conditions for dairy consumption in Asian markets. There are some signs of improvement in certain areas, but not nearly enough to meet the medium-term (2025?) ambition to lift normalised EBIT by 50-100%.

March issue

Feature article: Avocados - holy guacamole!
Trendy, versatile and nutritious, per capita consumption of avocados is increasing and supply is struggling to keep up. Grower returns from avocados are favourable with an industry average of $27,300/ha in recent years and top growers achieving $78,000/ha. We develop a commercially focused greenfield model which shows at maturity profit of $43,500/ha. The internal rate of return (excluding the cost of land) is 24% if the steady state profit of $43,500/ha in year 10 is held through to 20 years of age. The economics of avocados stack up well, but there are many practicalities to consider. Achieving consistent yields and maintaining tree health are challenging and require very good orchard management.

Education corner: The Rubik’s cube of lifting business productivity
Productivity growth is crucial to remaining profitable in an ultra-competitive and constantly changing world. We suggest businesses follow a formal planning approach when assessing potential productivity improvements. This involves a number of steps: evaluation of a business’s productivity performance against its peers and goals; identification of specific capital and operational innovations and initiatives; analysis of options; implementation of chosen ideas; monitoring of performance; and improvement where expectations aren’t met.

December issue

Feature Article: Foreign investment in New Zealand primary sectors
Foreign ownership, particularly of rural land, is a controversial and emotive topic. A huge proportion of New Zealand’s comparative advantage resides in our land and the income generated from it. As such, there is strong interest in maintaining local ownership. A firm but fair regulatory framework is key. Yet New Zealand also needs to recognise the many benefits that foreign ownership can bring in the form of capital, market access, innovation and opening up untapped opportunities. Current angst over foreign ownership also deflects attention from New Zealand’s poor saving record, resulting reliance on foreign saving and poor relative investment returns. A more proactive stance towards saving and investing is an important part of any policy solution.

Education corner: Pathways to farm business ownership
Farm succession and attracting or retaining talent remains challenging for many with a primary sector business. With this in mind we take a look at the three main pathways to farm ownership in the Red Meat sector: equity partnership, leasing and share farming. The initial steps to formation, challenges, benefits and keys to success for arrangements apply equally to other primary sector businesses too.

September issue

Feature article: Up the ‘value-add’ ladder
While many still lament the primary sector’s lack of ‘value-added’, when you dig a little deeper a range of evidence suggests such a view is somewhat outdated. Those further into the value-add journey are typically the smaller primary sectors. Success is turbo-charging returns and asset valuations. The fast followers and larger sectors are seeing more incremental gains at this stage, but there are promising signs of more to come. It is critical that the larger industries such as dairying, forestry and red meat deliver on creating more value.

Education corner: Farming under nutrient limits
In the water-quality space the debate and implementation of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management continues. It is therefore topical to look at some of the modelling that has been conducted on reducing nutrient losses, and the impact on profitability of different levels of abatement for the various regions, sectors and farm types within a sector. The results show there is no ‘one size fits all’ with a number of unknowns that require further science, research and new innovations if current nutrient losses are to be reduced to the desired level of the community.

June issue

Feature article: Farm-gate price outlook for 2017/18
We take our annual detailed look at the key forces shaping the price outlook for NZ’s major agricultural sectors. Generally the outlook is positive despite a challenging global backdrop. The operating environment looks positive for the key livestock sectors; we are most cautious on beef, with a large supply increase anticipated from the US and Brazil. For dairy, current market indicators suggest a high-$5/kg MS to high-$6/kg MS range for the milk price. We’re biased towards the upper end with demand expected to be able to absorb the anticipated increase in supply at reasonable prices. The main horticulture sectors had challenging growing and harvesting conditions this year, impacting on the overall quality of crops. That said, decent prices are still expected, supporting overall revenue.

Education corner: The digital tsunami
Technology continues to pervade business and change the way many things are done. It’s no different down on the orchard or farm with apps being increasingly used to support a range of business practices. There are an estimated 2.8 million available in the Google play store and 2.2 million in the Apple app store. We take a look at 65 different ‘apps’ in the primary sector that are changing business practices and digitising thoughts and paper trails.

March issue

Feature article: Forestry – The case for more investment
The forestry sector is currently experiencing a period of strong returns. Many of the drivers look like they could extend for a number of years. Yet despite this positive outlook, the overall plantation area has declined 5% over the last 10 years, leading to concerns about the long-term supply of wood beyond 2030 and restricting investment further along the supply chain. Recent returns should encourage replanting. In addition to being competitive with drystock farming, forestry is a solid diversification strategy and can also help farmers meet new environmental regulations.

Education corner: New Zealand’s changing trade patterns
China is now New Zealand’s largest goods export destination having accelerated its purchasing of a broad suite of our products since 2008. Traditional markets such as Australia, US, UK, Japan and South Korea are still prominent, but are all losing market share to other destinations. The likes of Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia and Thailand are increasing the range and value of products they import. This pushing them up the rankings and into the top 10 destinations.

 

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