Guest Post: Never make predictions, especially about the future

Tetra-pak-mn

Casey Stengel was a talker.  He could also ‘walk the talk’.  He was a very successful baseball player and coach who was nicknamed “The Old Perfessor” for the wisdom of his quotes.  One of his wittiest was, “Never make predictions, especially about the future.”

Even well-informed and experienced analysts get their predictions wrong sometimes. A few years ago the leading milk product packaging company Tetrapak made the prediction that dairy prices, internationally, would continue to rise well into the 2020s.  Their graphs showed no blips, just a steady widening of the gap between supply and demand leading to increasing prices. Tetrapak had put together a group of very smart analysts who had developed a reputation for having a credible grasp of the world dairy scene and an ability to understand trends and changes.

Of course, they didn’t see the Russian boycott coming but they may have been able to better understand the removal of restrictions on production in Europe and factor that in because history shows that the Irish, French, Dutch and Germans can all ramp up production very quickly with their access to high quality foodstuffs and the various subsidy support measures they have as a rural industry.  

The other factor that Tetrapak’s analysts misread was that markets change much more quickly than expected given the right circumstances. Only a relatively small amount of the milk produced around the world is traded internationally so small changes in production, either up or down, have a dramatic effect on international prices. With virtually no records on amounts of product in store, especially in China, predicting price changes and when they will occur is fraught with danger.

Right now there are questions being asked about whether stocks are running down more quickly than was thought possible a few months ago. Once the market considers that stocks are moving forward, buying will suddenly spring to life and prices will surge.

Underlying demand at consumer level continues to rise even though the figures are down from the high of 3.2% growth in 2014 and 2.0% in 2015. Most estimates for 2016 are for demand to hold at 1.5% to 1.6%. This is critical for New Zealand dairy farmers for, although production is up in Europe and the USA, that supply will retreat over the Northern summer/autumn as their lower prices bite.

In summary, the drastic fall in farmer returns over this season could turn around a lot quicker than was expected even a few weeks ago when the market was predicting there to be two seasons of very low returns. In fact, there could be good news for farmers before the end of the calendar year.

For the rest, it is also positive. Dairy is a huge player in our economy and we all benefit from the cash that those involved generate and willingly spend in the community.

For John Key and National looking for something positive to take them into election year, the timing may just be a godsend. Just remind me of Stengel’s quote again?

 

-Guest submission, name withheld by request


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

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