The creator of Pilgrim's Choice Vintage Cheddar has warned of crisis in England's mature cheddar industry. David Hardisty says a shortage of milk for cheesemaking last autumn has meant that stocks of mature cheddar are very low and could mean a compromise on maturity levels as short cuts will undoubtedly be taken. To blame, he says, is the diminishing price return to milk producers, forcing farmers to give up production. Hand in hand with this have come price rises for liquid milk which has been pushing up the price of dairy products. "There was a shortage of milk for mild cheddar and territorial cheese in the late autumn/winter and stocks were not laid down to mature," said Hardisty. "Milk that was available was very much sought after by processors. Cheesemakers saw the opportunity, having made losses in the last 12 months, of selling on their liquid milk in October to December. "The shortage was so great that there was still a profit of 2p or 3p a litre to be made by selling milk contracts for January to March. "The dilemma for the cheesemaker was why not make the equivalent profit of £2/300 per tonne on the milk with an instant cashflow rather than going to the trouble of making cheese and holding it for 12 months then making a downright loss?" Hardisty, whose North Downs Dairy Company has six farms producing handmade open textured farmhouse cheddar under contract, adds: "Mature/Extra Mature and Farmhouse cheddar account for 60% of the total cheese market. Any degree of shortage in this category is therefore very serious." Pilgrim's Choice is the UK's fastest growing prepack cheddar brand according to Taylor Nelson Sofres [52 w/e January 2001]. {{PROVISIONS }}

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