Farmers supplying First Milk are set to benefit from a bonus payment this autumn after the co-op reported “solid” financial performance over the past six months.

Despite tough economic conditions, operating profit in the six months to 30 September increased £0.9m on the same period last year to £4.7m, while pre-tax profit was unchanged at £3.2m – this was net of £0.9m paid out in June as a return on members’ capital.

Group turnover was down slightly (£0.8m) at £272m and bank debt up from £63m to £70m following increased cheese production.

“We’ve set quite a pace over the last 18 months, but despite the tough UK and global economy, we will not be slowing down,” First Milk chairman Bill Mustoe said.

“Last year, we paid out a return on members’ capital for the half and full year results. Likewise, we intend to pay a return on members’ capital linked to our performance in the six months to September 2011 and will contact members later this month to confirm the details of this payment.”

Mr Mustoe said the co-op had taken on more than 100m litres of new volume over the last few months which had contributed to the solid performance.