AFTER a two-year absence from global markets China’s appetite for dairy imports is returning and that is good news for the Australian industry. By: KAROLIN MACGREGOR
Last week Rabobank’s senior analyst for dairy in China, Sandy Chen, visited Tasmania and spoke to producers about the direction of the Chinese market.
Mr Chen said overall the average consumption of milk in China had increased significantly, from 10 litres per capita in 2010 to about 34 litres per capita by 2013.
Because it is such a huge player, Mr Chen said China’s activity in the global market could create volatility.
In 2013 an outbreak of foot and mouth disease reduced domestic production and poor seasonal conditions saw China buying aggressively in the global market. This drove prices to record levels and saw China accounting for 15 per cent of the global market.
Towards the end of 2013, major Chinese processors were gathering stockpiles but during the second half of 2014 increasing consumer prices and a recovery in domestic production saw import demand slow and stockpiles increase.
“That actually led to a significant piling up of inventory in China,” Mr Chen said.
“So during the second half of 2014 China stepped out of the market and pretty much entered into a destocking phase and that process lasted at least 18 months.”
This saw dairy prices across the globe plummet.
The Chinese Government has a goal of 70 per cent self- sufficiency in dairy but Mr Chen said while large corporate dairy operations were being developed, a lack of land to grow fodder meant they relied heavily on feed imports and had high production costs.
Mr Chen said last year domestic production in China fell by about 4 per cent, or 1.5 billion litres of milk. It again became active in the market and prices began to rise.
Mr Chen said India was another large dairy market with significant population growth but at present it was isolated.
The growth rate of dairy demand in China over the next five years is expected to be 2 per cent to 2.5 per cent a year.
“There’s no denying that China has replaced Russia as the main destination for dairy exporters,” Mr Chen said.
“If we look at the demand for dairy in China, we believe the demand is a function of dietary habit, but also income level and income growth.”
Most of China’s dairy consumption involves milk and yoghurt. Per capita cheese consumption is just 72g per person, compared with Australia’s average of 13kg a year.
New Zealand is still the biggest exporter with about 52 per cent of the market but Astralia’s market share is increasing and rose to 6 per cent last year.
He expects dairy consumption to increase but not at the recent rate of growth.
Categories such as yoghurt with health and wellness features, butter and cheese had big potential, but Mr Chen said they would remain small compared to liquid milk.
Australia has 21 per cent of the cheese market in China, with about 100,000 tonnes exported there last year.
Premium milk products have seen the biggest growth as consumers start to choose higher quality products.
Source: Weekly Times