UK wholesale prices

Updated 26 April 2021

Indicative average prices for butter, skimmed milk powder (SMP) and mild Cheddar cheese on UK wholesale markets. Bulk cream prices are weighted average prices on agreed trades within the reporting period.

Note there has been a change in the methodology for determining the bulk cream price from January 2021.

Information on prices and market conditions is gathered through a monthly phone survey of dairy product sellers, traders and buyers. Panel discussions cover prices on spot trades agreed within the reporting period and delivered within a maximum of 2 weeks for bulk cream and 6 weeks for butter, SMP or cheese. 

For butter, skimmed milk powder (SMP) and mild Cheddar, prices are indicative of values achieved for spot trades and exclude contracted prices or forward sales.

For bulk cream, a weighted average price will now be reported. This is based on submissions of an average price for agreed spot trades made within the reporting period along with total volumes traded. Data is entered by panel members via the AHDB online wholesale price portal.

Overview

(Weeks 12-16: 22 March – 23 April 2021)

Average prices firmed for most products (cream excepting) in this reporting period. This was primarily supported by higher prices at the start of the period, as seasonally increasing milk production tempered prices as the month progressed. Trade friction remains an issue for some, making it harder to export product. As such, some are seeing a 2 tier market with the EU prices higher than the UK.

Bulk cream prices were strongest in the early part of the data period, up to the mid-1500s (per tonne), supported by increased demand in the run up to Easter. The subsequent drop-off in price after Easter was exacerbated in some regions by factory shutdowns, with surplus product pushing prices as low as the 1200s for some. This dip recovered somewhat by the end of the reporting period, when prices were generally in the 1300s. Seasonally increasing milk production also weighed on prices as the month progressed.

The average weighted price on spot trades of bulk cream over the reporting period was £1,405 per tonne, down 4.5% on the previous month.

Butter prices were slightly up on the month overall, though some reported seeing a month-on-month decline; higher prices at the start of the reporting period may account for the disparity. Similar to cream, demand was better before Easter than after, though foodservice demand is improving as the slow reopening continues. Some found butter prices to be slightly higher than they had originally expected.

SMP prices continued to rise, particularly at the beginning of the period. Global powder markets are being supported by strong demand in the Far East, and recent tenders.

Reports suggest Ireland was focusing more on WMP production, lending some support to butter and SMP prices for those usually in competition with them.

Cheddar prices also rose a little, supported by tightening stocks and gradually returning demand. The increasing prices for other products also lent support to Cheddar prices. However, some people were still seeing a relatively static market, so overall gains are conservative.

Additional information

The December quote included prices on spot trades agreed between 1 - 21 December, delivered within a 2-week window for bulk cream and a 6-week window for storable products. 

Prices for bulk cream were not weighted by traded volumes prior to January 2021. 

The published prices will not necessarily match the overall actual price achieved 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
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