Northern Ireland milk prices are holding strong across the board, with all of the big players announcing holds or price increases for April's milk.

The latest department figures show it's been a good start to the year so far.

The weighted average farm gate price of milk during January to March 2021 (including bonuses) was 29.97p/L - making it 3.53p/L higher than the same period in 2020.

The volume of milk produced is also up, with March production in Northern Ireland increasing 7% compared to the year before totalling 236.9 million litres.

In Europe, the latest Dutch Dairy Auction on Wednesday (May 19) saw prices up slightly across the board. Fresh butter saw the biggest increase (up €60 to €4,040/t). Whey powder had the smallest increase, but the extra €10 brought it to its highest price in more than three years at €1,030/t.

The general trajectory has been up across all five markets since the start of the year. Skimmed milk powder was up €40 to €2,620/t and whole milk powder up €30 to €3,180/t.

However, global trade has been less buoyant. The Global Dairy Trade (GDT) index had its third consecutive drop on Tuesday (May 18) when a marginal fall was reported. Agriland's full analysis of the last GDT auction can be found here.

NI milk prices

In terms of the local base prices, Dale Farm led the way across the Northern milk buyers, increasing its price for April by 0.25p/L reaching a base price of 29.8p/L. The co-operative said that its average price paid to producers based on average milk quality was 30.67p/L.

Lakeland Dairies announced it would pay the same (29p/L) as paid in March which includes a 1p/litre unconditional bonus.

A spokesperson said markets had stabilised and remain "in balance" as demand currently matches milk output across the globe.

"Overall, there is a general stability across the main commodity segments. Conditions in the food-service sector have started to improve on a tentative basis as lockdowns are eased and vaccine rollout continues.

"Lakeland Dairies will continue to monitor the market closely in the coming weeks," the spokesperson added.

Both Glanbia Ireland and Glanbia Cheese have held their respective prices of 29.25p/L and 28.75p/L.

Aurivo is set to pay 29.1p/L, up 0.4p/L compared to the month before.