World wholesale prices

Updated 14 January 2021

This price series looks at the average wholesale prices of certain dairy products from the EU, Oceania and the US. It aims to provide an overview of global wholesale price movements which can affect prices closer to home.


World wholesale markets were mixed in December, although movements were more dependent on region. Movements in currency, and in particularly a weakening of the US dollar, have had a major impact on the relative prices between regions. In US dollar terms, both the EU and Oceania recorded monthly growth across all dairy commodities. However, the US recorded declines in all but SMP, with a particularly large decline in Cheddar cheese prices.


Strong retail demand for butter over the holiday season continued to support prices in December. With much of the foodservice industry offline, manufactures continued to focus on packaged butter. Nevertheless, plants producing bulk butter also reported a rise in buying interest. In euro terms, average EU butter prices actually fell this month, but once converted into dollars they recorded a slight increase.

Skimmed milk powder (SMP) prices recorded a significant increase on the month, helped by the weakening dollar. Reports suggest that demand from both the export market and within the EU was good. Additionally, spot market activity was also reportedly strong. With contracting for Q1 reported as complete, most activity was geared towards Q2. Reports also suggest that stocks of food grade product are relatively low going into the New Year, which also supported prices.

Whole milk powder (WMP) prices continued to climb in December. In euro terms the lift was a conservative 0.4%, but this was amplified to 3.6% with the currency movement. Supplies were reported as tight, which limited spot market activity. The majority of buying interest was reported to be from within the EU, with export interest quiet.


Butter prices moved up considerably in December. Despite milk production being past the peak, butter production was reported as active. Buyers were focused on securing deliveries before the spring, which also provided support to markets.

SMP markets were also reported as active in December. Prices strengthened on the back of strong demand, particularly from the export markets. Price haggling from buyers was reported as minimal, particularly for consumers who prefer Oceania product. Short-term stocks were reported as tight.

WMP markets were also active in December. Regular buyers were motivated to lock in contracts now, as concerns of a potential drought affecting future availability weighed over the market. Export interest remained strong.

Strong exports interest, particularly in New Zealand, supported Cheddar prices in December.

United States

Butter markets eased back slightly in December. Butter production was reported as very active across that nation, reflecting good cream availability. However, stocks were reported as high, particularly for bulk butter. Retail demand slowed leading into the holiday period, and orders then became sporadic as retailers restocked shelves. Foodservice demand remained weak, while, export markets were reported as steady.

WMP prices dropped back slightly in December. Production was reported as irregular due to being driven by contractual needs. Manufacturers reportedly opted to clear 2020 stocks on the spot market so production could meet Q1 2021 contract needs.

Cheddar markets recorded a significant decline in December, dropping by a third compared to the previous month. US Cheddar prices have been relatively volatile for a number of months, and much of the drop recorded in December was a re-alignment of prices. Retail demand was reported as steady, while foodservice demand remains weak and uneven. Meanwhile, spot prices were reported as heavily discounted. Growing inventories remain a concern, particularly in Western regions.

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World wholesale prices