Somerset-based cheese manufacturer AJ and RJ Barber has announced a 6p/L (6.7c/L) farmgate price increase to occur over the next three months.

The increases are broken down into 2.5p/L (2.8c/L) in December, 2p/L (2.2c/L) in January and 1.5p/L (1.6c/L) in February. This will take Barber’s standard litre price to around 30p/L (33.5c/L).

Company Director, Charlie Barber, said that the company has 120 farmers on the books, supplying 140m litres of milk annually.

"Producers include those with a predominantly spring or autumn calving pattern plus those calving the year round. But the annual milk production profile for the business is pretty flat."

We took the decision to push ahead with the milk price increase as we feel this is what the market can deliver.

"It is also important for our producers to know what’s coming, in terms of the better returns that are available for the cheese that we produce.

"Our producer farmgate price bottomed out at 20.3p/L (22.8c/L) last May. Since then we have seen a recovery within the market.

"And we are fully aware of just how difficult it has been for farmers over recent times. Last autumn we actually reduced the size of our supplier base, given the then state of the market.

“But we are currently adding to our producer numbers again with some of our previous farmer-suppliers agreeing to come back on-board."

Barber also suggested that dairy prices will remain relatively strong beyond next spring.

I think it’s going to take a prolonged period of decent prices to get dairy farmers to up their game from a production point of view.

“It’s a bit like an oil tanker: getting it to change direction can take time. From time to time we would purchase small volumes of milk on the spot market, particularly towards the end of the year.”

The Barber company manufactures a range of cheddar cheeses to all the major UK retailers and the speciality sector. Well over 90% of the company’s output is sold within the UK. But the weakness of Sterling is opening up export opportunities for the business at the present time.