First Milk turnover increases by 7.8%

British dairy co-operative First Milk has increased its group turnover by 7.8%, according to its latest set of accounts.

The Annual Report and Accounts for the year ending March 31, 2019, showed First Milk’s turnover reached £272.3 million last year.

Operating profit for the year also remained stable at 2.6% of turnover, while net debt fell by £3.8 million year-on-year and net assets grew by £4.4 million.

The same year, the company also launched First4Milk – a responsible sourcing programme and introduced a member premium to reward members for their loyalty.

Commenting on the results, chief executive, Shelagh Hancock, said the accounts demonstrated a further strengthening of the business’ balance sheet.

“Over the last 12 months, we have been focused on further strengthening and developing the business, with stable financial performance, efficient manufacturing, strengthened commercial relationships and, crucially, improved returns to members.

“With a strong platform in place, we are committed to maximising the value we return to our members.

We remain clear that prosperity comes from building demand, growing capacity and securing supply – in that order.

“The dairy world is changing fast; economically, socially, technologically and politically. We will continue to be agile and adaptable, broadening our base and collaborating to deliver optimal supply chain solutions that deliver benefit for our members and our customers.”

First Milk is a wholly-British farmer-owned co-operative which produces cheeses and dairy ingredients, as well as fresh milk.

NFU Scotland Milk Committee chairman John Smith, a First Milk supplier from Kintyre, said: “After some dark times for the members of this farmer-owned business, First Milk has made year-on-year progress under Shelagh Hancock and her team.

“It is a strategy that has seen them investing in more efficient and increased capacity, following through with a more competitive milk price for its members along with a loyalty payment linked to shareholding.

Progress has focussed on building key relationships with the likes of Ornua for cheese and a new strategic partnership with Havero Hoogwegt for whey proteins, as well as continuing to develop existing relationships with customers.

“However, the deeply disappointing closure of the creamery on Arran along with the ongoing uncertainty around the creamery at Campbeltown underlines that the First Milk board strategy has shifted away from relatively small-scale speciality cheeses to heavily invested, industrial-scale modern creameries aligned to key marketing partners.

“That strategy exposes the vulnerability of First Milk members in remote milk fields like Kintyre and Arran.”