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New Zealand milk versus Chinese steel

Not always do free trade agreements signify open and receptive markets. One only need look at the Chinese steel and New Zealand milk case. In 2008 China and New Zealand signed the China-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Recently China has threatened to reduce imports of milk and fruit from New Zealand due to an accusation that it is dumping steel in New Zealand below cost.

In essence, China is seeking to export its overproduction of steel which is being put on the market at half price, all of which is having a significant impact on New Zealand’s metallurgical sector and so much so that Pacific Steel, part of NZ Steel Group, has formally asked the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to verify if China is selling below cost. This could lead to a complaint to the World Trade Organization for dumping.

On the other hand, China thinks that a commercial strategy lead by the USA is underway which aims to damage its exports and has accused Australia and New Zealand of following the Americans. What is more, China has denounced the above-mentioned free trade agreement (article 62), which states that a country is to be immediately informed should an enterprise of another country put in a request to initiate an investigation for anti-competitive practices.

In short, on the one hand New Zealand is complaining about anti-competitive practices with regard to Chinese steel, and, on the other, China is responding by increasing problems regarding fruit and milk imports from New Zealand. It is the businesses themselves that have declared that a sort of ‘trade war’ is underway. It appears that Fonterra in Beijing has been informed by a Chinese business authority about actions to limit imports from New Zealand should the country penalise Chinese steel imports, or simply start procedures to do so.

Will veiled threats turn to open confrontation? This is unlikely to happen given the huge stakes involved, but there will certainly negative consequences and particularly for New Zealand’s dairy sector.

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SheepToShip LIFE – Sardinia is transforming itself into a sustainability workshop

The SheepToShip LIFE project is underway. Sardinia is transforming itself into an experimental laboratory on the eco-sustainability of farming systems in Europe. Its objective is ambitious: to identify and implement innovative solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the meat industry and Sardinian dairy sheep industry in order to improve the environmental sustainability of the entire sector.

Donatella Spano, the regional Minister of environmental protection, underlined that one of the main expectations is to obtain useful operative guidance to then transfer to regional strategies. Sardinia was chosen as the project intervention area as it is highly representative of the Mediterranean sheep farming industry both in terms of quantity and coexistence, given the restricted size of the territory.

Through Life Cycle Assessment methodology, SheepToShip LIFE will set out to understand the environmental implications of milk produced according to the most common farming systems and PDO cheese made from sheep milk such as Pecorino Romano, Pecorino Sardo and Fiore Sardo. This will be done by examining a sample consisting of two hundred sheep farms and ten of the island’s cheese factories in order to identify critical environmental problems of the production processes.

For Pierpaolo Duce, head of IBIMET-CNR (Institute of Biometeorology of the National Research Council of Sassari), the aim of the project is to demonstrate environmental, economic and social benefits of eco-innovation of the farming industry and dairy sheep industry as well as promote environmental and rural development policies oriented towards life cycle thinking, a complex approach to sustainability that takes all aspects into account, including consumption.

The project has a total budget of 2,610,000 euros and the partners are IBIMET-CNR (leader), ISPAAM-CNR, Agris Sardegna, LAORE (Regional Agency for Agricultural Development), the Department of Environmental Protection of the Autonomous Region of Sardinia and the Faculties of Agriculture and Economics and Business of the University of Sassari. The project will last for four years.

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EU-28 exports of milk and cream are booming

In the first half of 2016 EU exports of milk and cream increased by 45% compared to the same period the previous year. June also registered double-digit growth (20.4%).

Since May last year a surprising export market for these products has been Belarus, which saw the volumes it imported increase by more than 6 times in the first half of 2016 – from 7,666 to 58,552 tonnes – amounting to an astounding +664%. This placed the former Soviet country in second place amongst buyers of EU milk and cream with an 11% market share of total export volumes. China holds second place and remains unattainable with 229,141 tonnes, a growth rate of 73% and a total market share of 42%. One of the reasons for Belarus’ brilliant performance (from 303 tonnes in the first half of 2014 to its current 58,500 tonnes) could be the fact that it has become Russia’s main supplier of cheese under Western sanctions. Libya is third placed with a good 8% increase and a 6% market share of total exports.

As far as EU-28 exports of other dairy products are concerned, during June the following increased in volume compared to the same period the previous year: infant formula (26.8%), cheese (11.8%), butter (5.7%), whey powder (4.4%) and whole milk powder (1.4%). The only product to decrease in volume was skimmed milk powder (-24.1%) whose result was worse than that of the whole of the first half of the year (-13.7%). With regard to value, the only negative data not surprisingly concerns skimmed milk powder and whole milk powder.

In the period January-June 2016 the increase in exports accounted for 7% of the increase in milk deliveries in Europe. The main geographical areas to which European dairy products were exported were Africa, whose total imports decreased by 13.8%, Southeast Asia, whose total imports increased by 8%, the Middle East, whose total imports increased by 10.4%, North America, whose total imports increased by 7.2%, and countries outside the EU whose total imports increased by 7.8%.

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Italian milk, cheese and cream exports continue to grow

In May Italy exported 9,239 tonnes of milk and cream, an increase in growth of 131% compared to the same month the previous year. These figures confirm the positive trend of the first five months of this year which saw an increase of 28.5%. Packaged milk performed exceptionally with an increase of 262% compared to the previous year.

Despite unfavourable geopolitical conditions, the main importer of milk and cream is Libya. South Korea holds second place having purchased considerable quantities of cream since January. China is third placed followed by Albania.
Italian cheese exports are also growing; they increased by 18.5% in May and by 9.5% during January-May compared to the same period the previous year.

In May alone exports of main cheeses increased in volume –namely, grated or powdered cheese (+40.6%), Pecorino and Fiore Sardo (+38.5%), Gorgonzola (+22.1%), fresh cheese such as mozzarella and ricotta (+16.9%), Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano (+12.7%) and Provolone (+6.5%), whereas Asiago, Montasio, Ragusano and Caciocavallo decreased (-2.1%).
From January-May this year fresh cheese was exported to France (+6% in volume compared to the same period the previous year), the United Kingdom (+20%), Belgium (+10%), Germany (with a superb +91%) and Switzerland (stable with 2%).

In the first five months of this year exports of Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano, two of Italy’s leading food products, went mainly to Germany (despite a 7% decrease in volume exports amounted to an overall market share of 32%), the United States (exports amounted to the same quantity registered in the first five months of the previous year and an overall market share of 15%), France (+13% in volume and a market share of 10%), the United Kingdom (+9% in volume and a market share of 8%) and Switzerland (fifth but with a decrease of 10%).

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New Zealand dairy exports hit record high in June

Compared to the same period the previous year, in June this year New Zealand dairy exports increased in volume with regard to the following products: whey powder (+180.4%), infant formula (+133.7%), skimmed milk powder (+69.4%), cheese (+35.2%), butter (+25.2%), whole milk powder (+15.6%) and casein (+3.9%).

Infant formula exports continue to boom having registered a superb increase of 114.3% compared to the same period in 2015. However the most interesting figures regard whole milk powder and skimmed milk powder. Whole milk powder registered a decrease of 3.3% in the number of tonnes exported compared to the first half of 2015, but the most worrying figure regards the decrease in value (- 21,5%; 1,523,718.000 dollars against 1,942,037.000 in 2015). In the face of a 8.2% increase in terms of volume (200,974 tonnes in 2015 to 217,343 in 2016), skimmed milk powder registered a heavy 20.8% decrease in terms of value (530 million in 2015 to 420 million in 2016).

This difference between volume and value concerns practically all exported products. Apart from previously mentioned whole milk powder and casein and caseinates (which also registered negative results in terms of volume), as well as infant formula, condensed milk (+64.4% in volume and +25% in value), packaged milk and cream (+45.8% in volume and 29.5% in value), which registered positive results both in volume and value, all other products registered negative figures as far as value is concerned. In addition to the previously mentioned skimmed milk powder, there are cheeses (+9.4% in volume and -2.4% in value), yoghurt and buttermilk (+7.4% in volume and -32.2% in value) and whey powder (+17.3% in volume and -21.4% in value).

This data speaks for itself: in the face of good demand in the market in the first half of 2016, there has been a general decrease in prices compared to the same period the previous year.

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Slow growth required in sheep milking to avoid market collapse

The sheep milking market, which is currently in the process of development, risks collapse if production does not grow in line with demand. This is what Landcorp consultant Andrew MacPherson said at a New Zealand Veterinary Association conference.

For McPherson the main problem for companies, particularly if they are not able to transform their milk into milk powder, is that many of them only have one product to sell on the market, which is not good for creating a rosy future in the medium term.

Landcorp, for example, which entered the sheep milking industry in partnership with the SLC Group, is not interested in selling bulk sheep milk powder in Asia or in other markets. The sheep milk is processed at Waikato Innovation Park in Hamilton and used to make yoghurt, pro-biotics, ice cream and protein products consumed by high performance athletes.

The biggest challenge faced by the industry is still low milk production. Maui Milk’s Peter Gatley said that New Zealand production levels are decidedly poor in comparison to overseas sheep milking industries – around 100-150 litres of milk per ewe compared to the 500 litres produced on European and Israeli intensive sheep milking farms.

Sheep milk offers an alternative to people who are intolerant to cow’s milk and has a different taste as well as different properties to goat milk. Gatley believes that the industry has the potential to grow to $200 million by 2030 of which a good part should be reinvested in improving genetics and feeding.

In order to talk about real development in this extremely interesting sector, the ultimate goal now is to produce 300-400 litres per ewe.

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China has an insatiable appetite for butter and cheese

During the month of June this year China’s dairy imports increased in volume compared to the same month the previous year, in particular whole milk powder (+120.2%), milk and cream (+43.9%), butter and cheese (+27.7%) and infant formula (+18.0%). The general growth trend during the first half of this year amounted to 30.6%.

The growth enjoyed by butter and cheese is particularly interesting. With a 24% increase over the first half of 2015, cheese imports have made a truly remarkable recovery (at least 45,567 tonnes) which is even more significant if one analyses data from 2014-2015 in which there was a substantial deadlock at 36,055 and 36,669 tonnes respectively.

China’s main supplier of cheese is still New Zealand, which has more than half of the market share (54%) and has increased in volume by 34%. Australia holds second place with 20% of the market share and a product increase of 31%, thereby experiencing a recovery after the sharp decline in 2015. Instead, the USA, third in the ranking, is in free fall: its 6,250 tonnes in 2014 fell to 5,801 in 2015 and then 3,919 in 2016, marking a decrease of 32%. France has given an excellent performance by more than doubling its export volume, arriving at 1,836 tonnes, which marks an outstanding increase of 114% compared to the same period the previous year. The market share held by Denmark is also interesting; in 2015 it experienced a boom like France and in 2016 has confirmed its positive trend even though it has had to ‘settle’ for an increase of only 14%.

As far as butter imports are concerned, after the dramatic drop in the first half of 2015, 2016 has opened with good prospects experiencing a strong increase of 35% (44,174 tonnes of product compared to 32,768 the previous year, though still far from the 53,187 of 2014). New Zealand is China’s main supplier of butter and has an incredible 87% of the market. With 38,500 tonnes, it has registered an increase of 39%. France follows at a considerable distance with an increase of almost 50% compared to the same period the previous year. France’s figures are infinitely smaller than New Zealand’s (French butter sold in the first half of this year amount to almost 2,100 tonnes). Third and fourth place are held by Belgium (+57% with 1,432 tonnes) and Australia (-36% with 964 tonnes). Fifth placed, Holland has registered an excellence performance with a substantial increase of 137%.

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A report on the infant formula market

The Global Infant Formula Market Report 2016 has been released. It comprises 54 pages, 5 tables and 44 charts and provides complete data on the artificial milk market and its various segments, as well as the main trends and issues to be addressed. It also focuses on the activities of the four main players in the sector: Nestlé, Danone, Mead Johnson Nutrition and Abbott Laboratories.

The report states that some of the key factors driving the growth of the infant formula market are the increase in the female labour force, the increase in disposable income in a demographic giant such as China, the rapid growth of electronic commerce in the Chinese market, urban growth, increasing globalization and the global increase in gross domestic product. It is the developing countries, particularly those in Asia Pacific, which have encouraged the expansion of the global market, especially China.

Despite strong growth, the expansion of the global market for infant formula is hampered by restrictions in China on some brands of milk powder and certain regulatory changes.

The report discusses policies and development plans as well as production processes and cost structures. The market analysis covers main areas including the USA, Europe, China and Japan. There is an analysis for each region on the size of the market and the end users.

As mentioned, the report focuses on the activities of the four main players in the sector, Nestlé, Danone, Mead Johnson Nutrition and Abbott Laboratories, and provides useful information such as company profiles, product images, sales figures, market shares and contact information. In short, in addition to providing extensive data on the state of the industry, it is an important source of information for companies and all those who are interested in the market.

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A digital milk meter for sheep from Sardinia

Villanovafranca in the province of Cagliari has recently been home to the world premiere trial of a digital milk meter. The function of a digital milk meter is to measure milked sheep milk and analyse its fat content. This experiment was started on the initiative of the Regional Farmers’ Association of Sardinia (ARA Sardegna) in collaboration with AGRIS (Agricultural Research Agency of Sardinia), which has tested the new instruments in the company ‘Sanna e Saba’.

These new digital milk meters will replace the manual ones. They contain a specimen bottle that withdraws milk in such a way that it can be analysed in a laboratory of the place of provenance in addition to reaching consumers in the best of conditions.

The director of ARAS sees it as a real revolution as there is a vast difference between the two methods – in a nutshell it is comparable to the transition from hand milking to mechanical milking. In short, the new milk meters tell you instantly, and with absolute precision, how much milk a certain sheep produces. Not only is it entirely digital and enables you to read the data on a PC or smartphone, but it is undoubtedly an important tool for all livestock farms that implement genetic selection.

Sandro Lasi, president of the association, says he is not only convinced that these instruments will ensure that technology and sheep farming go hand in hand, but that thanks to this innovation, an enormous step forward is being taken given that digital milk meters provide information on the flow curve, conductivity and temperature of the milk.

Naturally the objective is to continue in the direction in which cutting-edge farms are moving, where not only the welfare of the animals and the manufacturers is protected but also that of the consumer, who is provided with more information on the product being bought.

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These are the differences between sheep milk and cow’s milk

From a chemical point of view, milk is one of the most complex fluids in the world. It is a heterogeneous mixture made up of different components in unstable equilibrium. This characteristic is also reflected in the differences between various types of milk, like, for example, sheep milk and cow’s milk.

When comparing the composition of sheep milk and cow’s milk, there are major differences as far as nutrients are concerned. To be specific, sheep milk contains less water than cow’s milk (82% compared to 87.5%) but more fat (6.5% compared to 3.6%). This is reversed however with regard to cholesterol; sheep milk has a lower concentration of cholesterol (11mg/100g) than standard cow’s milk (14mg/100g).

Sheep milk also contains a higher percentage of protein (5.5% compared to 3.2%). The percentage of lactose, however, is the same (4.8% for sheep milk and 4.7% for cow’s milk). The percentage of minerals is also almost identical although sheep milk contains slightly more (0.92% compared to 0.72% in cow’s milk). The amounts of calcium and phosphorus, the two main minerals in milk and one of the main reasons why it is consumed, vary considerably however. 100g of sheep milk contains 193mg of calcium compared to the 119mg in cow’s milk, and 145mg of phosphorus compared to the 93mg in cow’s milk.

As far as vitamins are concerned, milk contains Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2) and Niacin (B3), as well as fat-soluble vitamins such as A and E. Also here sheep milk is generally a lot more nutritious than cow’s milk with regard to the following: Riboflavin (230/382mg/100g compared to 162/215mg/100g), Vitamin C (4000/5000mg/100g compared to 940/2400mg/100g), Niacin (400/450mg/100g compared to 84/270mg/100g) and Pantothenic Acid (450mg/100g compared to 314mg/100g). A part of the vitamins to be found in sheep milk come from Rumen bacteria.

As far as fatty acids are concerned, both types of milk contain Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) which is potentially considerably beneficial to human health. On average, sheep milk contains more than cow’s milk (4/10mg/g compared to 2/11mg/g).

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