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Fonterra cuts forecast 2013 payment to farmers by 30 cents

Tuesday 28th August 2012

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Fonterra Cooperative Group, the world's largest dairy products exporter, cut its forecast 2013 payment to farmers by 30 cents citing the continued impact of a high New Zealand dollar and commodity prices that are lower than they were a year ago.

The Auckland-based company lowered its forecast for the Farmgate Milk price component to $5.25 per kilogram of milksolids from $5.50/kgms and reduced its forecast for the net profit component to a range of 40-to-50 cents, from 45-to-55 cents per share.

The New Zealand dollar dropped after the announcement, to trade recently at 80.61 US cents from 80.84 cents immediately before. The kiwi traded as low as 74.73 cents in late May. Dairy products are New Zealand's biggest commodity export.

"We've actually seen improving prices in recent GlobalDairyTrade trading events, but the strength of the kiwi dollar is eroding any gains," said chairman Henry van der Heyden. Still, "prices are low compared to a year ago and the New Zealand dollar remains strong against the US dollar."

The unfavourable exchange rate is also hurting Fonterra's consumer businesses in many markets and the company was also feeling the effects of a "difficult retail environment" in Australia and New Zealand business.

Chief executive Theo Spierings said there are some early signs of strengthening dairy prices, with drought in the US curbing milk production and driving up the price of grain, while in Europe, wet weather in the north and a heat wave in the south were hampering grain production.

This helped to explain "some of the firming in global dairy prices," Spierings said.

"Our forecasting anticipates some recovery in global dairy prices but we don't know how strong this recovery will be or when it will kick in," he said. "For this reason, our farmer shareholders should continue to plan cautiously."

BusinessDesk.co.nz

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