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UK wholesale prices

Updated 27 March 2020

Indicative average prices for UK dairy wholesale markets, including bulk cream, butter, skimmed milk powder (SMP) and mild Cheddar cheese.
Due to the rapidly changing trading landscape brought about by the coronavirus outbreak, we will be providing weekly market updates from 27 March until further notice. These will be published every Friday in our Market Analysis section (also available on the Coronavirus hub).

Overview

There have been big changes in the dairy supply chain in the past month as businesses have had to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. In the first half of the month, UK markets were predominantly driven by the general slowdown in export demand.

Since the closure of UK eating-out establishments (21 March), markets have been very erratic. In a very short space of time, retail sales saw massive spikes while foodservice markets all but disappeared. This shift in demand has impacted on wholesale prices in recent weeks, but to different degrees across products.

Further affecting price movements on UK wholesale markets were currency movements. The value of sterling fell consistently through the month, from 1.15 €/£ at the beginning of the month to 1.09 €/£ in recent days. On average, this would add around 3% to UK prices.  

  • Butter markets have generally weakened in March. Some of the downward pressure has been the drop off in export orders as global markets remain slow. The closure of most foodservice markets across key EU countries put further pressure on markets in the latter part of the month. Some support was provided from higher sales volumes into retail markets and currency movements.
  • Cream markets have held up surprisingly well in March, bolstered in the first half by a surge in demand from German butter manufacturers. The stockpiling of packaged butter by consumers created increased demand for bulk cream, pulling up prices. At the peak, these were reported to be in the range of £1,320-£1,380 per tonne. Increased availability on UK markets from seasonally increasing milk production and the spike in retail demand for liquid milk, has seen bulk cream prices fall back in recent weeks.
  • SMP prices saw the biggest drop in the month, following lower global demand. The backlog of exports into China, along with expectations of increasing supplies has put continued pressure on prices. Buyers are reported to be well covered, and in no rush to agree sales on a falling market, leaving sellers with few sales opportunities.
  • In contrast to most products, mild cheddar prices moved up in March. Supplies are reported to be tight, and stretched by the spike in retail orders. As with other dairy products, foodservice orders are non-existent since the government shut-down, but demand from other sectors is keeping pressure on the market for the moment.

Additional information

Prices have been compiled by talking to dairy product sellers, traders and buyers. Panel discussions on market conditions and prices covered trades agreed for the period 1 to 27 March.  Prices reported are indicative of values achieved over the reporting period for spot trade (excludes contracted prices). The published prices will not necessarily match the actual price received by a milk processor as this will depend, amongst other things, on the proportion of product that is sold on the spot market and the proportion sold under longer term contracts and at what price this is done. The “average” prices should be used to track trends while the commentary will contain prices seen through the month.

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UK wholesale prices