ONE of the major players in Cumbria's dairy industry, First Milk improves total returns to its farmer members and continues to increase turnover, deliver profitable growth, and progress its capital investment plans.

The farmer's co-operative, owners of the Lake District Creamery at Aspatria, has this week published its Annual Report and Accounts for the year ending March 31, 2023, which outlines a year of continued profitable growth, as the co-operative works to deliver long-term value for its members.

Key highlights: Turnover up by 38 percent to £456m (2022: £331m); Operating profit (before exceptional items) stable at £5.1m (2022: £5.1m); Capital investment of £7.4m completed (2022: £15.5m); Average member milk price increased year on year by 14.4ppl (an additional £105m paid out to members in the year); Rising milk prices increased working capital requirements, cheese stock value increased by £32.5m leading to net debt increasing to £63.9m (2022: £43.4m); New partnership agreed with Arla Foods Ingredients to produce a specialist whey powder at Lake District Creamery; New corporate rebrand rolled out to align visual identity with long-term purpose and goals; Certified B Corporation status confirmed; King’s Award for Enterprise for Sustainable Development awarded; Our Cheddar won Supreme Champion at the 2022 Global Cheese Awards; Members committed an additional seven per cent of land area to regenerative practices

Shelagh Hancock, Chief Executive, said: “The last year has been tumultuous, with a roller coaster ride on milk prices and energy costs, creating challenges across the whole dairy supply chain, from farm to consumer. Yet, whilst these massively changing market dynamics have been challenging, the value we have in our secure contractual relationships meant that we were able to maximise the milk price paid to members as quickly as possible.

“Despite the volatile market conditions, our cheese business has continued to grow, we have completed a major investment at our Haverfordwest Creamery, and we have continued to progress our regenerative approach, receiving external acknowledgement of our progress through B Corp certification and the King’s Award for Sustainable Development. I am confident that we are on the right path and that growing recognition of our approach to regeneration will help to differentiate our offer and help us to deliver our vision of enriching life every day to secure the future.”