6 Apr 2020

Commodity prices continue to fall but offset by weakening dollar

5:32 pm on 6 April 2020

Commodity prices continue to fall as the impact of the Covid-19 virus continues to be felt on international markets, but the blow is being cushioned by a weaker New Zealand dollar.

No caption

Photo: 123RF

The ANZ World Commodity Price index dropped 2.1 percent in March and has now fallen 8.3 percent in the past four months.

In local currency terms the index actually lifted 3.3 percent due to a sharp fall in the New Zealand dollar.

Dairy, meat and fibre, forestry and aluminium all fell, but horticulture remain unchanged.

Dairy prices fell 3.4 percent last month and are now 4.5 percent lower than a year ago.

Skim milk powder had the sharpest drop falling by 8.1 percent and whole milk powder down 5.3 percent.

Meat and fibre has continued its downward trend of the past four months, with restaurant trade non-existent as major importing countries are in some form of lockdown.

Horticulture remained unchanged due to new season exports only now hitting international markets.

Forestry fell slightly by 0.2 percent, but prices are expected to improve with a resumption of manufacturing in China.

Aluminium prices declined by a further 4.5 percent in March and are now at a four year low.

See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

ANZ Agri-Economist Susan Kilsby said prices for primary-sector commodities are still holding their own reasonably well given the current global environment.

She said the New Zealand dollar corrected and came back a lot during the month, which helped exporters.

Kilsby said the New Zealand dollar is considered a risk-currency so when there is a lot of uncertainty happening in the world you tend to see it being sold-off.

''So we did see quite a weakening of our New Zealand dollar which means when our exporters are selling products in overseas currency we actually end up with more New Zealand dollars back in our hand here in New Zealand.''

''It's positive in the sense that when you are actually looking at it in local currency terms we are doing better.''

Kilsby said the commodity sectors are going to be hit by Covid-19 to a lesser extent than other parts of the economy.

''We are able to continue to operate through the period and around the world everyone still needs to eat.''

She said New Zealand primary sector is not going to completely escape the global economic challenges that are being seen at the moment.

''In a lot of our markets our food products that we are selling are considered more at the luxury end of the market, rather than day to day stables, so we will see a reduction in demand because of that and that will have some impact on prices.''

''But certainly in the current environment you would certainly prefer to be running a dairy farm than a hotel,'' she said.

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs