ANZ Agri Focus

ANZ Agri Focus is a bi-monthly overview of developments in the rural sector, combined with research on topical issues.

Written by Con Williams, ANZ’s Rural Economist, ANZ Agri Focus typically includes feature articles on current topics, a review of the past month and the rural property market. ANZ Agri Focus also includes information on key commodities and financial market variables along with an economic backdrop and information around borrowing strategies.

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April issue

Feature Article: Agricultural Price Preview 2015/16

Macro drivers such as geopolitical ructions, sluggish global growth, FX volatility/shifts and lower energy/feed prices are creating a challenging environment for many primary sectors. But exposure to these forces varies significantly, implying quite diverse outlooks for 2015/16. Key for how things evolve will be local and offshore supply dynamics, as well as NZD direction. Across some soft commodity markets, such as dairy, global prices are below the cost of production, which will help cap production and drive price tension. But this is against a softer demand backdrop.

Education Corner: Global Land Price Trends

New Zealand farmland values have caught the gold rush fever again. High long-term farmland prices risk undermining many of New Zealand’s natural and man-made competitive advantages. We find New Zealand farmland values have appreciated the most of 12 key competing and export markets since 2000, but most of the other countries analysed have experienced impressive gains too. While much of New Zealand’s “X-factor” seems to be already priced in, outperformance and total farming returns well outpacing many other asset classes tells you something. So despite near-term challenges, don’t be surprised if farmland continues to catch a bid from many quarters for the “touch and feel” aspect, food and other services investment thematics, global scarcity value of quality farmland, development opportunities, and diversification plays.

February issue

Feature Article: Key themes of 2015

We outline some key themes that will influence New Zealand's economic prospects over the coming years. They are: change - the new normal; localised focal points - a host of considerations to eye; the trend is your friend - trend growth is higher courtesy of both the appreciated and the under-appreciated; dairy - the key localised downside risk; liquidity versus fundamentals; and addressing income inequality - elongating the expansion further. New Zealand is firmly into an economic expansion. Good times are here. However, the good times mask frictions and tensions. Growth may have peaked, but the economy is moving from a high growth rate off a low base to moderate growth off a higher level. An expansion needs to be managed just as upswings need to be fostered. A common sub-theme across all thematics is the heightened importance of the microeconomic story. Leadership needs to trump populism, the policy agenda must be constructive, and firms need to maintain that harder edge. Complacency - a typical precursor to a downtown - needs to be kept at bay. 

Education Corner: Debunking the myth of low wages in the primary sector

There is often a perception of low wages and limited earning potential in the primary sectors, especially on the production side of the industry. This is often cited as a key reason why it is difficult to attract quality people. We find this is an unfair perception when other additional benefits are appropriately valued. Top earners in particular have similar earning capacity to other professions.

 

 

December issue

Feature Article: The secrets of top-performing red meat farms

The first part of the Red Meat Profit Partnership investment involves gaining a better understanding of what top performance looks like and its key drivers. In-depth interviews of top farmers found a range of key attributes, with the main ones including: vision and drive; having the right skill set; above-average execution of key farm management practices and mitigation of risks; and passion and confidence in the sector, which drives investment and effort. We also analyse benchmarking data to help draw out which areas of the more measurable aspects of a farm are more or less important determinants of profit. The more important benchmarks connect the dots to the "softer" skillsets and farm management practices that drive financial performance.

Education corner: Managing the topsy turvy Dairy market 

The long-term outlook for dairying remains solid, but there are downside risks for incomes over the next two years. While cash flow isn't as bad as the headline payout figure for this season, it is set to tighten over the coming 12+ months. There is a wide range of business models and leverage (debt loadings) within the dairy sector. This means the scale of adjustment required between different businesses will vary greatly across the sector. At the moment it requires careful management, but still looks manageable for most. 

October issue

Feature Article: Breaking the mould – new innovations

There have been numerous innovations throughout history that have changed businesses and industries. We take a look at four innovation themes that we believe are set to – or already are – rapidly changing business practices in the food supply chain. These are: 3D printing, or additive manufacturing; precision agriculture; robotics and automation; and genetic modification. Their applicability to the New Zealand situation is growing as they are adapted to our situation, technological advances, costs decline, societal acceptance increases, and better service support becomes available.

Education corner: All you need to know about the US dairy industry

We detail insights from a recent trip into the heart of the US dairy sector – Wisconsin. On-farm we found the use of scale, state-of-the art technology, access to cheap labour, feed efficiency and the attention to milk quality as well as animal health all combine to make a high-octane model for producing milk. The other striking aspect was that the amount of capital required to set up a dairy farm was less than half that in New Zealand (on a per kg MS basis). This is largely due to substantially lower land values. These are some of the core strengths of the US dairy sector that will make them a force to be reckoned with in the future.

August issue 

Feature Article: Agricultural Price Preview 2014/15

The outlook for farm-gate prices for the majority of primary sectors looks solid as we head into the 2014/15 season, with further incremental gains in prospect. This follows decent lifts in 2013/14 for many. The notable exceptions are forestry and dairy, where international prices have fallen further than initially expected, prompting recent downgrades to our forecasts for 2014/15. The NZD looks to have passed cycle highs and is an additional factor that could be supportive of farm-gate prices as the season progresses (i.e. NZD/USD is forecast to remain strong in the near term, but soften in the second half of the season). 

Education corner: India in focus 

While there might be some new niche opportunities in India, it ranked down our list as a longer-term opportunity compared with many other Asian markets. Two key impediments that need to be overcome are limited market access and a fragmented, underdeveloped cool chain. Indians also have strong food preferences, which limits opportunities for some products (i.e. beef), but creates them for others (i.e. dairy, and fruit and vegetables). Some of these dynamics are changing, but it is off a low base. 

June issue

Feature Article: Alternate Asian markets - A big picture view

China represents a huge opportunity for the New Zealand economy. Yet with opportunity comes vulnerability. So we decided to assess the attractiveness of the opportunities other nations across the wider Asia region offered using a range of indicators. The top 5 (of 28) ranked countries were Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and China. Not surprisingly, these are already well-established export markets for many sectors. The up-and-comers throw up a mix of a few less well-known nations and some more familiar names. They include Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Thailand, Armenia, Indonesia and Vietnam. Each have their own pros and cons. Some are growing rapidly on a number of metrics, highlighting that new opportunities will rapidly emerge. Other markets are more mature, but offer growth opportunities if market penetration and share can be increased.

Education Corner: China's great beef challenge

China’s beef consumption looks set to grow rapidly, driven by the same dynamics that are boosting general protein consumption, but also supported by disease issues in China’s domestic pork and poultry production. New Zealand is in a prime position to participate in the lift in imports. We have many competitive advantages over other larger global players including an exclusive FTA, geographic location, a good food safety reputation, and established relationships with many multinational foodservice chains that have expanded rapidly throughout China.

April issue

Feature Article: Equity Partnerships – A look under the bonnet

One of the most popular farm structures in recent years has been equity partnerships. Critical success factors in an equity partnership are several: having a robust, achievable strategy for value creation; ensuring all the appropriate due diligence has been completed; having good relationships, common objectives and motivations between shareholders; having an appropriate business structure; ensuring there are robust business processes and systems in place; clear communication with regular meetings; and agreed procedures for entry/exit of shareholders, as well as for resolving any disputes.

Education Corner: Chinese infant formula market and the wave of regulatory reform

Infant formula can be characterised as a value-add product due to its defensible characteristics. Markets tend to be highly consolidated for such products. Much of NZ’s recent investment into infant formula has been based around the Chinese market, which is more fragmented than others due to rapid growth and less regulation. But repeated food safety incidents have triggered a wave of regulatory reform. While the direct impact of the reforms remain highly uncertain and dependent on their offi cial interpretation by Chinese authorities, they are likely to have wider implications beyond the infant formula category.

February issue

Feature Article: Big themes of 2014

Summary: We outline some of the key themes that will play an influential role in determining New Zealand’s economic prospects over the year ahead. They are: Managing Friction; Appreciating the unappreciated; The Sacrificial Pawn; Tapering Tantrums, Sovereign Risk, and Inflation Watch. The bottom line: New Zealand is firmly into an economic expansion.

Education Corner: New Zealand's changing trade patterns

New Zealand’s main export markets have changed rapidly in the last six years. The change has been mainly driven by the rise of China, which overtook Australia as our largest export destination in November 2013. Additionally there has also been strong growth in exports to ASEAN and wealthier Middle East countries. Our more traditional markets such as Australia, the US and Europe remain important for specific sectors and higher grade/quality products though.

December edition 

Feature Article: Insights from the ANZ Business Barometer

Summary: Strong confidence was the over-riding message from this year’s survey. But a subtler encouraging message was also evident – there appears to be a continuing shift toward a more investment-orientated decision-making model and a greater focus on cash-fl ow and profit. The top four investment initiatives are aimed at boosting cash performance, productivity, and improving the resilience of a farm’s bottom line to an economic shock, rather than just higher production volumes and acquiring more land.

Education Corner: KPMG Guest Editorial

This month we feature a guest editorial from KPMG’s Head of Agribusiness, Ian Proudfoot. Ian talks about evolving New Zealand’s agribusinesses into truly customer-centric industries. This includes some of the barriers that need to be overcome to achieve the growth goals the Government and individual sectors have set themselves.


October 2013 edition

Feature Article: Just add water

Summary: Huge attention needs to be paid to deriving cash value from water storage and new irrigation projects. Our research shows average per hectare returns for the various land uses under irrigation of: $2,380/ha for dairying; $2,000/ha for arable and processed crops; $700-$900/ha for sheep, beef and dairy support; and a wide range for horticulture depending on crop, variety and location.

Education Corner: Aquaculture

Global aquaculture production has grown 12-fold since 1980, which has made it the fastest-growing protein sector. With the volume of capture fisheries having plateaued, further lifts in demand will need to be filled by aquaculture.


August 2013 edition

Feature Article: China in Focus

Summary: China faces challenges re-orientating its economy and the current risks are skewed to the downside. Our Chinese economics team have recently revised down their growth forecasts, but believe the risks of a hard landing can be managed with appropriate policy assistance.

Education Corner: After Effects of 'QE' Withdrawal

The environment over the last few years has been one of record-low interest rates both here and abroad. The decision in June by the US Federal Reserve to set out a conditional timetable for winding down its quantitative easing (QE) programme flags an end to this golden era. Some conjecture surrounds how much soft commodities have benefited. We believe it would be naive to assume soft commodity price trends are totally disconnected to wider asset class trends.


June 2013 edition

Feature Article: Agricultural Price Preview 2013-14

Summary: Just about all New Zealand’s main soft commodities are set to show some improvement at the farm-gate in 2013-14. Often the main driver is supply reductions from weather related events either domestically, or abroad. But changing trade patterns from increased demand in Asia and other non-traditional markets continues to be important also.

Education Corner: Capturing Opportunity – Irrigation Infrastructure Progress

In this month’s Education Corner we turn our attention to irrigations schemes and their current state of progress. We find that New Zealand’s irrigable land has increased by 17 percent over the last five years to 721,700 hectares.


April 2013 edition

Feature Article: The Wool Industry's Battle for Survival

Summary: The wool industry’s battle for survival has seen a number of ownership changes and new branding initiatives emerge: such as nuances are heartening. But in general, farmers continue to show disunity and a lack of collective enthusiasm to invest in one particular proposal.

Education Corner: Changing Face of Water Management Part II

This month’s Education Corner details some of the recent industry and regulation developments, highlighting areas of commonality and disagreement between industry and regulators, and shows things are developing more quickly than many appreciate.


February 2013 edition

Feature Article: Big Themes of 2013

Summary: We outline some of the key themes that will play an influential role in determining New Zealand’s economic prospects over the year ahead. They are: The circle of “[dis]Trust”; Transitioning via differentiation – some unheralded legs of the growth story for New Zealand; Sovereign risk (a repeated them three years running); Asia’s upside for New Zealand – shifting attention from the Macro to the Micro; A polarised compass; and Jobs.
The bottom line: brace for another bumpy year, which whilst better than 2012, we would still characterise as a grumpy growth environment.

Education Corner: Climate Change Update

On the international scene, NZ has recently pulled out of a second commitment period under Kyoto. Those with binding commitments now encompass a very small proportion of global emissions, reducing its perceived relevance. It also lacks a compliance mechanism. Although the New Zealand Government remains focused on achieving an “international, legally binding agreement by 2020”, it is changing its strategy, preferring the UN Framework Convention stream that includes 85 percent of global emissions to achieve this.

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