Date: Thursday 8th January 2015
For First Milk, and the rest of the dairy industry around the globe, 2014 was a year of volatility that has never been seen before. While returns from globally traded products were at record levels 12 months ago, they have fallen over 50% since then, leading to a steep fall in milk prices around the world. For every dairy business, this has made aligning incomings with milk price payments extremely challenging each month.
At member meetings in November, the First Milk Board was open about the losses that were accrued in the early months of this financial year as the company dealt with rapidly falling markets. Despite aligning milk prices with market returns to balance the books since October 2014, there remains a gap of 1 pence per litre on an annualised basis due to these earlier accrued losses, which has restricted the cash available to the business.
First Milk's chairman, Sir Jim Paice MP, continued:
"While our lenders have been supportive as we've dealt with this volatility, with the added uncertainty of the imminent EU quota removal, the Board has taken the decision to re-build the fundamentals of the business ahead of the spring flush.
"As such, the Board has therefore decided that the milk payment planned for 12th January will now be deferred until 26th January, with all future payments also being deferred by 2 weeks."
"Additionally, the Board have decided to implement the following measures:
"These moves will deliver a cash injection into the business and play an integral role in putting our finances and our business on a stronger platform as we approach the spring flush.
"We understand that the milk payment deferral will cause concern for members as direct debits and payments will have been lined up against milk cheques. On that basis, we are working with all major banks at national, regional and local levels to explain the rationale around this decision. That way, bank managers should be well equipped for any conversations they have with First Milk members.
"We are a business owned by dairy farmers. The Board are acutely aware of the difficulties this current extreme volatility is causing First Milk members and the UK dairy industry. We don't know how long this current market downturn will last, and we are aware that hundreds of UK dairy farmers are unlikely to find a home for their milk this spring. Our priority is to make the business and our processing assets as secure as possible in order that we can continue to process and market every litre of our members' milk.
"In addition to this move, we are working across a number of areas to deliver a stronger business platform for 2015. Some of these are around better aligning our collective milk supply with market demand, and some are strategic moves. All are aimed at delivering stronger business fundamentals for First Milk heading into the 2015 spring flush.
"Finally, we have reminded members that our AGM is being held on 30 January at The Holiday Inn Hotel, Haydock and if they are not able to attend, we will also be holding a series of member meetings around the country in February."
Notes to editors
About First Milk
First Milk is the UK's only major dairy company, 100% owned by British farmers. It supplies a wide range of dairy products and dairy ingredients to customers in both national and international markets including block cheeses, soft cheeses, raw milk, butter, skimmed milk powder, whey proteins and sports nutrition brands.
It generates annual revenues of £530 million (2012/13 figures) and is headquartered in Glasgow with seven manufacturing sites across England, Scotland and Wales.
First Milk's aspiration is to provide consumers with great-tasting nutritious food, while delivering value for every part of its farmers' milk. As a business with a passion for innovation and sustainability, it is constantly seeking fresh ways of working with partners across the supply chain to drive pioneering solutions to industry challenges.
For further information on First Milk, please visit www.firstmilk.co.uk or follow the company on Twitter @first_milk and YouTube www.youtube.co.uk/firstmilk1.
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