First Milk sees further improvement in results

First Milk’s accounts show continued progress for the farmer-owned business, with turnover and pre-tax profit rising in the year to 31 March.

Turnover was up 6% to £299.5m, while pre-tax profit rose to £6.19m, compared with just over £5m in the previous year.

This was alongside higher capital investment and stable borrowings.

Describing it as an extraordinary year, chief executive Shelagh Hancock said the business was able to rapidly adapt and respond positively to the Covid-19 challenges it faced. However, it was not as badly affected as some dairy businesses.

“Due to our customer mix, we were not affected significantly by the drop-off in food service demand, so we have been able to deliver growth through the year, even in these unusual circumstances,” said Mrs Hancock in the annual report.

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A Covid-related shift in consumption saw retail cheese sales rise by 15%, which was a 1% rise in value terms. Raw milk sales also rose, as did cheese exports.

Sustainability agenda

“We have seen 93% of our members voluntarily sign up to our First4Milk pledge – a broader commitment to sustainable dairy, including guaranteeing cows’ access to pasture and enhancing biodiversity,” said Mrs Hancock.

“To this end, we have progressed our sustainability agenda at pace this year, committing to net zero by 2040, launching an ambitious regenerative agriculture programme with our members, and embarking on a world-leading soil carbon assessment programme.” 

First Milk will also invest £14.4m in its sites this year – its largest ever programme of investment.

First Milk results

First Milk’s year to 31 March, 2021 (previous year in brackets)

  • Group turnover up 6% to £299.5m (£282.8m)
  • Pre-tax profit: £6.19m (£5m)
  • Net profit up 24% at £5.6m (£4.5m)
  • Capital investment of £7.8m (£5.3m)
  • Net bank borrowings £33m (£33.1m)
  • Covid-related shift in consumption lifted retail cheese sales by 15% volume and 1% value. Raw milk and cheese export sales rose
  • 60m litres of milk recruited into membership of the co-op in the year
  • 250m litres recruited in past three years
  • Targeting 50% reduction in farm carbon footprint by 2035
  • Head office staff now working remotely on permanent basis, saving costs and environmental impact