Milk Costs Most Ever to Signal Higher Prices for Pizza

Milk futures rose to a record as exports by the U.S. climbed amid shrinking inventories of cheese and butter, signaling higher costs for pizza and pastries.

The U.S. shipped a record 17 percent of milk production in the first half, according to Alan Levitt, a spokesman at the U.S. Dairy Export Council. Cheese stockpiles in July dropped 8 percent from a year earlier, and butter supplies tumbled 42 percent, the Department of Agriculture said last month. U.S. dairy costs are higher than world prices, signaling imports will increase, said Jon Spainhour, a partner at Rice Dairy LLC.

“Usually, we use the first six months of the year to build the inventory we’re going to sell in the last six months,” Spainhour said in a telephone interview from Chicago. “People are saying that ‘I know those imports are coming in, but in the meantime, I’ve got to make sure I’ve got enough to get on the supermarket shelf.’ ”

Milk futures for September settlement rose 0.7 percent to close at $24.45 per 100 pounds at 1:11 p.m. on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Earlier, the class III variety, used as a cheese benchmark, reached a record $24.47. The price has jumped 26 percent this year.

Dairy consumption increases in the North American autumn as U.S. football fans boost pizza orders and bakers need more butter for holiday cakes and pastries, Spainhour said.

U.S. cheese consumption will rise to a record 4.88 million metric tons in 2014, USDA data shows. Milk use will climb to an all-time high of 93.4 million tons.

“We just didn’t build the stocks we needed to, and domestic cheese buyers are still scrambling to build that inventory,” Spainhour said.

In July, retail whole milk was $3.65 a gallon, the most for the month since 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE