Northland dairy farmers are poised to earn $589.5 million this season, if the latest forecast milk price is maintained until the final payout.

Despite posting a nett loss of $348m, Fonterra has announced a lift in the forecast milk price of from December's $6.40/kgMS to $6.55. That would bring Northland dairy farmers $589.5 million, based on 90 million kg/MS, up $13.5m on the December forecast.

Fonterra recorded an after-tax loss of $348m in the first half of the year to January 31, partly thanks to the $183m it paid to French food giant Danone for losses from the botulism scare. The higher forecast is based on rising dairy prices globally, especially for whole milk powder.

"Dairy farming and tourism are crucial drivers of Northland's economy, and when these sectors do well, businesses that sell to them do well."

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Northland dairy farm consultant Tafi Manjala said $6.55 would be a good payout, but farmers should exercise caution until the end of the year.

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Recent rain had also been good news, he said, giving farmers about 20 per cent more winter silage than in recent years.

Northland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Tony Collins said the lift in the forecast would enable farmers to invest in machinery and equipment, something they had not been able to do in the past three years.

"Dairy farming and tourism are crucial drivers of Northland's economy, and when these sectors do well, businesses that sell to them do well," he said.

Fonterra usually announces the final milk payout in September. Last year's final price was $6.52/kgMS.