The dairy industry is on track to pump another $1 billion into the wider Bay of Plenty's economy as forecasted milk prices rise.
Farmers in the region are optimistic while industry leaders have credited their resilience and ability to adapt quickly in the face of Covid-19.
Fonterra Farm Store Bay of Plenty and Taupō regional head Lisa Payne said the co-operative had more than 900 farmers in the region who would receive about $1 billion in milk payouts this season.
In a market update on December 4, Fonterra increased the midpoint of its forecast farmgate milk price for the 2020/21 season by 20 cents to $7 and lifted the bottom end of its range to between $6.70 and $7.30.
Payne said the spring had been kind but farmers in the region needed more rain to replenish from the long, dry summer last year.
''Every year impacts another year because we don't start and stop.''
Production-wise, the Bay of Plenty was on par and had a relatively good start and Fonterra was proud of its farmers, she said.
''I think it is time for dairy farmers to take a bow and locally, the economy has certainly benefited.
''Based on our current forecast, Bay of Plenty farmers are set to earn about $1 billion for all of their hard work. We know a good proportion of this gets spent on farm services and the local economy. ''
Payne said Fonterra had two big dairy plants in the Bay and exported all of its North Island milk powders and products, including butter, cheese and cream, to 140 countries out of the Port of Tauranga.
Dairy NZ Bay of Plenty regional leader Andrew Reid said the Bay had a year of challenges and opportunities, like much of the dairy sector nationwide.
''Locally, a very dry autumn brought an early end to last season for many, but as the dry continued throughout winter, the region had a great start to spring for calving.
"Regular rain over the past couple of months has meant current feed supply is pretty good for most of the district as we head into the holiday period.''
Like other sectors, Covid-19 was a big factor in 2020 and ''dairy proved how resilient we are in adapting to new circumstances''.
''Stepping up as an essential service was a credit to farming but also a challenge, as we all faced issues during the national lockdown. This particularly affected farmers who had staff from offshore who became locked outside the border and were unable to return to work after their annual holiday abroad.
''Despite some of these challenges, farmers adapted quickly and were able to keep the milk flowing, supporting our local and national economies.''
In 2020, DairyNZ launched Step Change, an initiative designed to help dairy farmers achieve financial gains while making progress towards environmental goals and adapting to pending regulations.
Meanwhile, the GoDairy campaign off got off the ground in June by offering Kiwis who lost jobs due to Covid the opportunity to move into a dairy career.
''This is a positive step toward bridging the staffing gap on farms by drawing newcomers into our sector, and the initiative achieved wide-reaching public exposure for our sector.
"As we head into 2021, we plan to continue a range of work to ensure we have great workplaces and that dairy is attracting talent on to our farms.''
Overall, the mood among Bay of Plenty dairy farmers was optimistic on the back of a climatically favourable first half of the dairy farming calendar, coupled with reasonable returns for product, he said.
Federated Farmers Bay of Plenty provincial president Darryl Jensen said there was a saying in rugby that it is a game of two halves - and I think everyone wants to forget the first half of 2020.
''That was really tough for farmers, but we had a kind winter and a good spring.''
He said farmers had been going like mad to make silage and there had been some wonderful maize crops grown in the region.
Jensen said the milk forecast was also positive news but farmers spent a lot on compliance and water regulations so the returns would be welcomed.