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Fonterra Pricing Increases Competition

25 July 2011

NZ - Internationally renowned competition expert, Compass Lexecon, has concluded that competition in New Zealand (NZ) dairy processing has increased since Fonterra was formed and that the way Fonterra sets its farmgate milk price is sound.

For the past seven years, Compass Lexecon has been ranked as one of the leading antitrust economics firms in the world by Global Competition Review.

Fonterra commissioned Compass Lexecon to provide an economic evaluation of the competitive environment for dairy processing and to also review the methodology for calculating the milk price paid to Fonterra’s farmer-shareholders.

The report, provided to Government officials last week, found that:

  • There had been a growth in competition in the NZ dairy industry under the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act.
  • There has been a significant investment in expanded dairy processing capacity in New Zealand by competitors as well as Fonterra since Fonterra was formed. This investment in new more efficient plant was driving down manufacturing costs.
  • The way Fonterra calculates its milk price – based on global prices for commodities, less the costs of a notional competitor – was correct.
  • Domestic dairy prices in New Zealand have increased less than global prices for dairy product, largely because of the growth of supermarket home brands sold at a discount. (Around 70 per cent of domestic fresh milk sales in New Zealand are now home brands.)

Compass Lexecon endorsed the fact that the Fonterra milk price was based on the costs of a notional competitor using efficient processing facilities, rather than Fonterra’s actual manufacturing costs.

It noted that there had been considerable expansion of dairy processing in NZ, with more efficient plant commissioned by both Fonterra and competitors: “Even if Fonterra (and other processors) … have higher average variable costs of processing, the farm gate milk price will be bid up by competitors utilising efficient plants,” the report concluded.

“The history of actual expansion by both Fonterra and independent processors indicates a strong belief by both Fonterra and competitors that they can secure a supply of raw milk at a price that allows them to operate profitably.”

Fonterra Group Chief Financial Officer, Jonathan Mason, said the Compass Lexecon report essentially concluded that the NZ environment was fostering competition in the dairy sector and that the way Fonterra set its milk price was fair.

“The Milk Price reflects international dairy commodity prices, less the costs to produce and export those commodities."

“We hope the high quality research done by such a respected international expert as Compass Lexecon will be helpful to officials reviewing these issues.”

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