GB milk deliveries are estimated to be down 3.8% in March compared to year earlier levels, however the seasonal growth is in line with last year as we enter the spring flush. Yields have been down year-on-year since November as a result of poor silage quality, reduced milking frequency due to labour shortages and rising input costs.
At the same time, global milk deliveries are also down year on year. February deliveries are estimated to be 1.8% lower than last year, with the EU-27 and New Zealand showing the largest declines. There is no indication of things improving anytime soon, despite entering the flush in the northern hemisphere. Bad weather continues to affect production and feed quality in Oceania and high input costs are suppressing production growth in the EU-27, UK and US.
Prices for all key dairy products have been increasing steadily so far this year, both on domestic and global markets. and it is expected this will continue until at least late spring/early summer as supplies remain tight.
UK wholesale prices have continued to reach 5-year highs, bringing both AMPE and MCVE to, or above, the 50ppl mark. Our Milk Market Value (MMV) indicator has also reached 50ppl in March, up 4.4ppl up on the month. With the release of updated manufacturing costs for Q4 2021, the cost elements of these indicators have now been adjusted. Higher energy costs have impacted on net returns, particularly on the cost of drying milk powders.
Farmgate prices and input costs
Market-related farmgate prices in GB continue to move up in response to the higher market returns, with processors announcing more increases for April and May. Retailer-aligned contracts are now responding to the on-farm cost pressures, announcing significant increases for April. These should bring the retailer aligned contract prices more in line with market-based prices.
It remains to be seen if the higher milk prices will prompt higher milk production or whether the cost increases will continue to make this unprofitable. While milk prices are helping to offset rising input costs, we expect the 2021/22 season to end 1.6% below that of 2020/21. Our milk production forecast for the 2022/23 season is for a further drop of 0.8%, although with such volatility in markets, we will revisit these forecasts through the year as events unfold.
Uncertainly of the impact of the war in Ukraine on access to fertiliser and feed ingredients, combined with changes to agricultural policy and labour shortages are expected to make farmers cautious in their decision making as the year progresses.