Rising export demand is underpinning current milk prices even with slowly increasing production. That's the bottom line of Penn State Ag Economist Jim Dunn's January outlook.
Cheese prices have risen steadily since mid-November, driven by export demand, especially from China. While butter prices are a weaker market, increased skim milk powder demand is matching the rising inventories without lowering prices, he says.
This helps explain why December's Pennsylvania all-milk price of $23.20 per hundredweight was 20 cents higher than November's. It was the first time the all-milk price topped $23 in consecutive months since September 2011.
Those past prices were accompanied by higher feed prices. So the present price has an even better net effect, given current feed costs.
January's Class III futures price is $20.06, up from December's $18.95. Currently the 2014 average Class III futures is running at $18.31 – 32 cents above the 2013 average.
Like last month, a small increase in the latest milk production report along with strong cheese futures prices make the higher cheese prices sustainable, especially for early 2014.
Prices of Class IV futures are averaging $19.95 a hundred for 2014, up significantly. The first few months are especially strong, with weaker Class IV futures as 2014 progresses.
Pennsylvania's all-milk prices for 2013 and the forecast prices for 2014 based on the futures prices are shown in the table.