UK wholesale prices
Updated 25 March 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.
(weeks 8- 11: 22 February – 21 March 2021)
Markets firmed through most of the reporting period on the back of good demand. Trade friction remains an issue for some, limiting the ability to achieve the higher prices available on continental markets, particularly for fresh product. Milk flows have started their seasonal increase, which has tempered demand with buyers expecting ample supplies over the coming weeks. That stabilised prices at the end of the reporting period for most products.
Bulk cream prices climbed steadily through the period on the back of firm butter prices. During the first three weeks, prices in the GB market rose from the mid-1300s (per tonne) to the mid-1500s. Export sales achieved premiums of around £50-100 depending on exchange rates and whether product went to NI or the continent.
The price increases stalled at the end of the period in line with a slowdown in butter demand and seasonally rising milk supplies, but remained in the mid- to high-1400s per tonne.
The average weighted price on spot trades of bulk cream over the reporting period was £1,471/tonne, up 10.2% on the previous month. The average is slightly lower than what the indicative value would have been based solely on panel discussions, due to the relatively lower volumes achieving the higher ‘export’ prices.
Butter prices firmed through the period on the back of strong demand on continental markets and a shortage of fat. Prices moved up from around £3,200/tonne early in the period to highs of £3,500-£3,600/tonne before settling back down to nearer £3,400/tonne.
Demand was reported to have slowed in the final week as buyers stepped back from the market. Most are said to be covered for the near term or waiting for potentially lower pricing post-flush. In addition, some nervousness has crept into the market with recent announcements of new lockdowns in some EU nations, possibly stalling the recovery of the foodservice sector.
SMP prices saw another tick up, with demand remaining firm. Supplies are also said to be tight due to recent tenders, and the relatively higher returns available for WMP. Robust demand for milk powders in the Far East has been the main factor supporting global milk powder markets.
Mild cheddar prices saw a small move up in March. A slow, steady increase in demand from foodservice markets in the UK, combined with continued strong retail sales, is said to have put pressure on prices. Supplies of mild Cheddar for spot sales remain limited in advance of the peak as those manufacturers servicing retailers need to retain product to meet the more mature demand profile.
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.