February 27, 2018


US dairy export value up 14% in 2017; milk powder, whey, cheese post strong sales



US dairy exports last year increased 14% to $5.48 billion compared with 2016, and were the highest in three years.


In volume terms, US exporters shipped 1.935 million tonnes of milk powder, cheese, butterfat, whey and lactose last year, up 6% and surpassing the previous high volume exported in 2014, according to the US Dairy Export Council (USDEC) analysis of US Department of Agriculture (USDA) yearend numbers released recently.


Exporters enjoyed gains across most major markets. Mexico remained the No. 1 partner, with sales of $1.3 billion (+8%) in 2017. Other notable increases in value came from China (+49%), Japan (+41%), Oceania (+50%), South Korea (+21%) and the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region (+21%).


Nonfat dry milk/skim milk powder (NDM/SMP) and whey exports posted new record highs in 2017, while cheese shipments increased 19%. These three categories make up more than two-thirds of US dairy exports.


Exports of NDM/SMP were 608,091 tonnes last year, up 1% from 2016. Nearly half of US powder exports went to Mexico, where sales were down slightly. Gains in exports to China (+90%, +16,000 tonnes) and Japan (+249%, +9,000 tonnes) offset large declines in sales to Southeast Asia (-16%, -32,000 tonnes), primarily Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.


Total whey exports were 549,018 tonnes, up 9% from last year. Nearly 45% of US whey sales went to China last year, and China purchases were up 16% (+35,000 tonnes). Exporters also saw a 19% increase in whey sales to Mexico (+8,000 tonnes). Meanwhile, whey exports to Southeast Asia were lower in 2017 (-14%, -14,000 tonnes).


Cheese exports 3-year high


Cheese exports reached a three-year high in 2017 at 341,085 tonnes, topping prior-year volumes in almost every month. Increases came from nearly every major market, led by Australia (+93%, +15,000 tonnes), South Korea (+23%, +10,000 tonnes), Mexico (+7%, +6,000 tonnes), Southeast Asia (+52%, +6,000 tonnes), Japan (+16%, +5,000 tonnes), the MENA region (+30%, +5,000 tonnes) and China (+44%, +4,000 tonnes).


Exports of butterfat increased 14% in 2017 to 27,653 tonnes. Exports to the MENA region (mostly Saudi Arabia and Egypt) almost doubled (+2,300 tonnes), while sales to Canada were 25% higher (+2,200 tonnes). Shipments to Mexico dropped 55% (-5,100 tonnes).


Fluid milk/cream exports were down 10% last year, with a steep drop-off in sales to Canada (-41%, -16 million liters). Sales to the Caribbean were also lower (-51%, -6 million liters). The largest gains came from shipments to Taiwan (+29%, + 6 million liters).


Exports of whole milk powder were 25,411 tonnes, down fractionally. Exports of milk protein concentrate were 23,160 tonnes, up 7%.