ANZ’s World Commodity Price Index – which measures prices received for New Zealand’s main exports – was “sky high” in March, rising 6.1 per cent to its highest point since the index began in 1986.
In local currency terms the index gained 7.4 per cent, month-on-month, to also reach a record high, supported by a 0.4 per cent reduction in the New Zealand dollar Trade Weighted Index, ANZ said.
The gain was mostly driven by high dairy prices.
“Dairy prices are currently being supported by strong global demand, combined with a steady milk supply in the main dairy-exporting nations,” ANZ’s agri economist Susan Kilsby said.
“Global shipping costs continue to trend higher, meaning a smaller portion of the overseas returns is making it back to our local producers,” she said.
The Baltic Dry shipping index – a lead indicator of economic activity – shot up by 25 per cent in March.
Container shortages are really starting to bite, with New Zealand exporters finding it increasingly difficult to source containers and secure space on ships, Kilsby said.
Delays at various ports loading and unloading ships are causing havoc with shipping schedules, and resulting in ships skipping some ports to make up time.
Shipping issues are expected to plague global trade for many months to come, she said.
Dairy prices lifted 12.7 per cent in March – their highest level in seven years.
Whole milk powder is now 43 per cent higher than a year ago and strong gains were also recorded for skim milk powder and butter.
However, cheese prices are very similar to a year ago.
Cheese is not included in Fonterra’s farmgate milk price calculation, which is heavily weighted towards milk powders.
Whole milk powder prices, which have the greatest impact on Fonterra’s farmgate milk price, remained elevated at this morning’s Global Dairy Trade auction, trading at an average US$4085 a tonne.
ANZ’s meat and fibre index lifted 1.1 per cent in March and is now 5.9 per cent higher than a year ago.
Beef prices eased marginally in March but this sector is still up 17 per cent, year on year.
Lamb prices lifted 1.6 per cent and the sector is hopeful prices will continue to firm as restaurants gradually reopen in our main European and US markets.
Wool prices lifted sharply in March, gaining 9.9 per cent but Kilsby said the industry still has a long way to go to recover fully, with shearing costs still considerably higher than the value received for the wool shorn on many farms.
ANZ’s horticulture index was unchanged, as prices for new season produce are yet to flow through.
A record crop of kiwifruit is expected this season but it will be logistically challenging to find sufficient staff to pick the fruit at the optimal time.
The apple industry is also facing similar issues due to the limited availability of foreign workers and insufficient local labour to meet the seasonal demand.
The forestry index gained 1.9 per cent in March. Log prices are now the highest since May 2014, having lifted 25 per cent in the past year.
ANZ said the high cost of shipping is presently offsetting much of the recent price gains in the log trade.
Demand for higher-grade logs used domestically was also strong due to the construction boom.
The availability of timber in some parts of New Zealand is tight, as sawmills continue to close due to a lack of profitability.
Aluminium prices have firmed for the past couple of months, gaining 5.6 per cent in March, and up 35 per cent against the same month a year ago.
Tightening supply in China, due to shutdowns of plants for environmental reasons, has bolstered pricing.
Demand for aluminium is expected to rise significantly this year, Kilsby said.
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