First Milk reports 8% rise in operating profit

The dairy co-op has also announced a series of climate and animal welfare pledges

First Milk’s annual results for the year to 31 March show increased turnover and profit, alongside increased capital investment and member returns.

Group turnover is up 6% to £299.5m (2020: £282.8m); operating profit rose 8% to £8.1m (2020: £7.5m) and net profit is up 24% to £5.6m (2020: £4.5m).

Capital investment was £7.8m (2020: £5.3m), with net bank borrowings stable at £33m (2020: £33.1m).

The performance saw the co-op increase its member premium to 0.5ppl (2020: 0.25ppl).

Chair Chris Thomas said: “The Covid-19 crisis has impacted on all elements of society and has
accelerated some of the change that we were already seeing in food markets in terms of consumer expectations
around sustainability and transparency.

“With the evolution of our First4Milk sustainability programme, as well as our ongoing investment in capacity and
productivity, First Milk remains well placed to serve our customer partners, as we work together to deliver dairy prosperity.

“Undoubtedly, we face the same global challenges as all other organisations, but as we work together to adapt and
decarbonise our supply chain, leveraging our co-operative values and exploring new opportunities, I am confident that we will continue to deliver value for our members.”

Environmental commitments made during the year include a pledge to hit net zero emissions by 2040 and the launch a regenerative agriculture programme, alongside a soil carbon assessment scheme.  

Nearly all members – 93% – have signed the First4Milk Pledge, agreeing to provide cows with access to pasture for a minimum of six hours per day for 120 days during the grazing season; guaranteeing that no healthy animal, including calves, will be euthanised on farm; sharing antibiotic use data; enhancing biodiversity and soil health on farm; and helping to promote a positive image of dairy.

CEO Shelagh Hancock said: “In what was an extraordinary year, we were able to rapidly adapt and respond positively to the challenges we faced and continued to make good progress throughout the year. As a result, I am pleased to report increased turnover and operating profits, significantly increased capital investment at our sites, and continued progress in generating value for our members.

“As a co-operative business, we are committed to working together to regenerate the earth every day to enrich life and nourish future generations. 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. To this end, we have progressed our sustainability agenda at pace further 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.  

“We have also committed to our largest capital investment programme to date for the year ahead, which will see us invest £14.4m in our sites to further improve operational capability. Overall, we have delivered promising progress and our vision remains clear – together, we will deliver dairy prosperity.”

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