A sustained period of lower make is now showing in the UK Cheddar market as buyers report a reluctance by makers to commit themselves on forward sales and as the availability of discounted parcels dries up.
In Mature Cheddar and Farmhouse stocks are reported to be low and barely sufficient for some suppliers to maintain deliveries. This tight situation is due to a long period of lower make, particularly of Cheddar which accounts for two-thirds of all UK cheese manufacture. In 2002, when total cheese make was cut 4%, this was due to weak markets and an excess of stocks. In 2003 milk shortages in the winter led to a further 5% cut in annual make.
In the first half of this year, when milk supplies have fallen even further, DEFRA reports total UK cheese make down a further 1% up to April compared with the same period last year.
Domestically made Mild Cheddar is now selling at a minimum price of £2,100 per tonne, over 6% more than at the same time last year. Unbranded standard creamery mature Cheddar is comfortably commanding a premium of 15% over July 2003 prices while the year-on-year premium for Farmhouse is a minimum of 20%.