In a letter to the US Senate Finance Committee earlier this month, a coalition of 11 rural organisations claimed that Fonterra’s “monopolistic” market presence has the potential to seriously damage American livelihoods.
Fonterra currently acquires and processes around 90% of the raw milk produced by New Zealand’s dairy farmers. According to the coalition, the US cannot compete with “dairy imports produced under unfair conditions.”
“New market access for New Zealand’s monopolistic dairy sector would be especially damaging to US dairy farmers and those who produce and process non-fat dry milk, butterfat or cheese,” said the 4 March-dated letter.
"The nation simply cannot afford to compete with dairy imports produced under unfair conditions. It is critical that Congress provide clear direction and oversight regarding expectations for US negotiators in order to avoid serious disruptions to agricultural sector livelihoods,” the letter added.
“Tremendous advantage in global markets”
Also this month, a group of more than 30 US Senators issued an almost identical call in a letter to US Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, and US Trade Representative, Ron Kirk.
The Senators raised concerns about the impact an expansion of US-New Zealand dairy trade would have “if reforms are not undertaken by New Zealand.”
“New Zealand has consistently expressed interest in greater access for its dairy products to enter the US market. At the same time, it is our understanding that New Zealand has resisted considering significant reforms to its dairy sector policies, which permit the concentration of virtually 90% of its milk supply into the hands of one company,” said the letter.
“Dairy producers and processors in our states are deeply concerned that this market concentration provides New Zealand, the world’s largest dairy exporter, with a tremendous advantage in global markets and are insistent on seeing it effectively addressed as a necessary precursor to any expansion of US-New Zealand dairy trade in TPP.”
Japan interest increased “commercial significance”
Meanwhile, the US Dairy Export Council (USDEC), the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) have welcomed a recent declaration of interest from Japan to join the TPP Free Trade talks.
“The addition of Japan greatly expands the scope of the TPP, and that market is a significant opportunity for US dairy exports,” said IDFA senior group vice president, Clay Hough.
US Dairy Export Council (USDEC) president, Tom Suber added that the addition of Japan would “dramatically increase the commercial significance of the talks.”
“The US dairy industry sees real value in the TPP negotiations if we are able to open new markets, like Japan and Canada, use the TPP process to strengthen global trading rules and secure meaningful competition policy changes in New Zealand’s dairy sector,” said Suber.