Why farmers aren't banking the big bucks despite record milk price from Fonterra

The dairy giant Fonterra's profits have fallen 7 percent, driven by the record milk price it's paying farmers. 

But because milk production is down and costs are up, many farmers won't be banking the big bucks.

Cows are pumping out white gold, with milk currently worth $9.30 to $9.60 a kilogram of milk solids - the highest it's ever been. 

"It's obviously a good time, time to repay some debt," Canterbury dairy farmer Karl Dean says

But it's not all good news for farmers.

"We're currently down 10 percent on production this season, that's due to having such a poor, cold, wet spring," Dean says.

Exactly how much cow's milk is worth is calculated by an industry regulator - and it's more than doubled in six years.

That's hit New Zealand's biggest business in the pocket, with profit after tax at $364 million, down 7 percent on last year.

"Input costs have been significantly higher - in fact, the average cost of milk has gone up nearly 30 percent on last year," Fonterra CEO Miles Hurrell says.

The co-operative is still paying a dividend of $0.25 to $0.35, but farmers aren't creaming it -  they need every drop because of inflation.

"The rising cost of fertiliser by 150 percent in the past year, fuel up 50 percent and wages seem to have gone up 25 percent," Dean says.

Dairy's a huge part of the New Zealand economy, an economy that grew in the December 2021 quarter. Although it might not be up for long - our economy is expected to have taken a hit since then thanks to Omicron.

But allowing Australian tourists in from next month could help us escape the recession.

"More economic activity, more spending will come forward - so we are hoping to avoid that technical recession," Economist Brad Olsen says.

"What today's GDP numbers show is the inherent resilience of the New Zealand economy," Finance Minister Grant Robertson says.

A resilience that's being tested.

"We're seeing interest rates continue to go up, the expectation there is they will continue to rise," Olsen says.

Another thing cow's milk cheques will have to cover.