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Ruskin Felix Consulting

Ruskin Felix Consulting

Dairy Industry Faces Unprecedented Inflation

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Rising costs currently present unique challenges necessitating strategic adaptations across dairy supply chains. As an advisory firm– we have analyzed macroeconomic factors driving inflation and their implications for producers, processors and other stakeholders.

Input Cost Pressures Feed, fuel and material expenses increased substantially in 2022. Our research found dairy farms saw a 15-20% rise in input costs on average. Processors also incurred higher transportation, packaging and labor outlays.

Supply chain disruptions and high fuel costs are also squeezing transportation networks, exacerbating inflationary pressures. Our data indicates over-the-road freight rates for dairy shippers rose 20-30% in 2022. Processors report delivery delays as driver shortages persist industry-wide. To mitigate impacts, cooperatives are negotiating improved compensation packages to attract and retain qualified drivers long-term.

Evolving Consumer Demands

Rising grocery bills are altering purchase behaviors. Data shows a 10-15% decline in fluid milk sales as buyers trade to private labels or consume less. A few well-known brands saw only minor volume reductions.

Looking ahead, most economists forecast inflation will gradually moderate through 2023 but remain elevated above pre-pandemic levels. The dairy sector must therefore plan for a “new normal” of higher input costs. Producers would benefit from multi-year supply contracts locking in stable feed prices to the extent possible. For processors and retailers– long-term fixed-rate agreements on utilities and other recurring expenses provide greater budget predictability.

Strategic Considerations

Financial resilience grows increasingly vital as interest rates rise in tandem with inflation. All entities must stress test financial plans under various inflation scenarios to identify vulnerabilities. Where debt levels are high, refinancing options should be evaluated to potentially lower borrowing costs. Maintaining sizable cash reserves and lines of credit allows flexibility to withstand unforeseen economic shocks.

To navigate current headwinds, we recommend the following actions:

  • For producers– focus on cost-cutting through efficiencies, input hedging and price negotiations. Consider diversifying revenue streams.
  • Processors should pursue measured price increases balanced with promotional support to maintain sales volumes. Portfolio optimization can better serve value-conscious customers.
  • All entities should stress test financial plans under inflation scenarios and bolster cash reserves to ensure flexibility in adapting strategies going forward.

By proactively implementing strategic recommendations, dairy industry stakeholders can effectively manage rising costs, evolving demand trends and financial risks to withstand near-term inflationary pressures. We hope these insights provide a useful framework for navigating today’s turbulent operating environment.

By implementing strategic recommendations tailored to their unique circumstances, dairy industry stakeholders can effectively manage rising costs, demand volatility and financial risks amid ongoing inflationary headwinds. Proactive adaptation is key to navigating the challenging operating environment successfully in both the near and long-term.

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