2009 is one of the most unusual years of China’s diary industry in nearly 10 years. The melamine incident in 2008 and the negative impact of the world financial crisis were still in continuity in 2009, although at a somewhat reduced level. The online quote price of the natural whole milk powder, the “barometer” in the world diary market, sustained downturn, which brought a major impact on China’s milk powder and even the entire diary industry. Facing tough market conditions, under the impact of various support and regulate policies, China’s diary industry is struggling to pick up, at a recovery speed faster than the expectations of internal and external expectations.
Viewing from the international market environment, the international financial crisis was still exerting a negative impact on global diary market in 2009. Due to insufficient demand for diary products, diary industry in developed countries, especially the EU and the USA, raw milk prices continued to slump, leading to decline in diary herds and reduction in aggregate supply. Bulk diary products like skim milk, cheese, butter, whey power in the world market fall into the valley of recent years in the first quarter of 2009, although slowly began to rebound in the second quarter, the price had a significant decline compared with the second half of 2007.
For example, in the US, food-grade nonfat dry milk bottom-price is USD 1795/mt (factory price), down 60.6% compared with the peak price of USD 4559/mt. The bottom price of butter is USD 2358/mt, down 60.69% compared with the peak time price of USD 3789/mt. The bottom price of dry whey is USD 338/mt, down 80.56% compared with the peak time price of USD 1739/mt. 40-pound block of cheddar cheese bottom price is USD 2461/mt, down 49.51% compared with the peak time price of USD 4874/mt. Since natural whole milk powder quotation system online started in August 2008, a total of 13 rounds of trading are transacted. In the first three quarters of 2009, full cream milk powder factory prices are roughly around USD 2200. Even though in the first half of 2010 the online transaction prices had risen considerably, the average CIF price of full-fat light milk powder imported by China from New Zealand in 2009 is at approximately USD 2200-2500/mt, roughly half the price of the peak time in recent years. Low price seriously blew the world cattle breeding industry and diary product prices.
From domestic market environment, China’s diary industry faces a very severe environment. Domestic diary industry is under a major impact and challenges of the world market. As diary prices in the international market are low, especially full-cream light milk powder and whey products that have a greater impact on China’s market prices are low, full-cream light milk powder and whey products imported by China from the world market soared. According to China Customs data, from 1-10 months in 2009, China has imported 136,189 tons of full-cream light milk powder from abroad, 484.42% up compared with the same period of last year. Imported whey products reached 241,530 tons, an increase of 42.08%. In addition, due to the melamine incident impact as well as the lack of cost advantage, China’s milk powder export shrunk dramatically. Exports volume in the first 10 months of 2009 dropped by nearly 80% compared with the same period of last year. Blocked exports and soared imports brought great impact on the production of China’s raw milk powder and raw milk. Milk stock once reached 300,000 tons. The lowest price of raw milk powder had reached RMB 15000/mt, much lower than the cost of RMB 28,000/mt. In the first three quarters of 2009, the average price of China’s raw milk showed a downward trend, fell about 15% year on year, resulting in decline of diary cattle herds and raw milk production.
Facing the severe market conditions, the Chinese government issued a series of supporting policies for diary industry development, such as the extension of central government loans for the acquisition of raw milk on the discount, the central budget subsidies for seed cows, milk station machinery and development, the expansion of state purchasing and storage size and so forth. Diary processing enterprises, especially the major enterprises, have more investment in the quality of raw milk and diary products, the consumer confidence in milk consumption significantly increased, these factors promote China’s diary market gradually pick up, the recovery is faster than expected.
According to the data provided by the National Bureau of Statistics, in the first 10 months of 2009, China’s diary production increased by 10.2%, more than the same period of last year, in which liquid milk output rose by 10.6%; per capita diary consumption of urban residents in the first three quarters respectively increased 15.84% and 4.07% compared with the fourth quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009, broadly in line with the second quarter. From the point of market competition and industry consolidation, the trend of the private turning to the state is strengthened. Formula milk, especially infant formula milk powder industry became the most competitive sub-sector in 2009. Many brands compete for market space left over by Sanlu. Meanwhile domestic brands launched new impact to the high-end market.
In 2009 the melamine incident has brought a profound lesson to the entire industry. The industry is having reflection and criticism. A growing number of diary companies are rethinking the way for survival and development, especially major diary companies are adjusting their corporate strategies and tactics in order to respond to new market and policy environment.
This year China’s diary industry will face a market environment very different from 2009. High raw milk price and milk products prices will be the most important market features. In addition, the issuance of the new diary safety and quality standards will bring an important impact on cattle breeding farmers, diary companies and government regulatory authorities.
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