BOISE — Idaho dairy exports jumped dramatically during the first quarter of the year, driven by increasing global demand for cheese.
The value of Idaho dairy products exported during the first three months of 2014 totaled $99.7 million, a 94 percent increase over the $51 million total during the same period in 2013, according to Idaho State Department of Agriculture data.
The increase was driven in large part by cheese exports, which jumped 230 percent to $36 million.
Milk Producers of Idaho Executive Director Brent Olmstead said Idaho’s dairy industry relies on the export market and more than 80 percent of the milk produced here goes toward cheese production.
“I’m very happy to see those numbers,” he said. “That is very beneficial for the industry.”
Idaho’s dairy industry produces more than 8,000 pounds of milk for each of the state’s 1.6 million residents, far more milk per capita than any other state, “so we have to be exporting,” said Jeff Williams, CEO of Glanbia Foods, which is headquartered in Twin Falls and is the largest American-style cheese manufacturer in the United States.
The increased Idaho dairy exports during the first quarter are “a combination of volume and higher prices compared with the first quarter of last year,” he said.
Jon Davis, CEO of Davisco Foods, the parent company of Jerome Cheese Co. in Idaho, said the first-quarter dairy numbers are definitely good but enthusiasm should be measured.
He said dairy exports ebb and flow depending on global conditions and he also pointed out that during the first quarter of 2013, Idaho dairy exports totaled $51 million, which was a significant decline from $60 million in 2012.
“I wouldn’t get too excited about that increase just like I wasn’t too unhappy about the decrease during the first quarter of last year,” he said. “The export market is here to stay. It will show strong continued growth, but not at (that) level.”
Exports of whey from Idaho increased 45 percent to $27.7 million during the first quarter, dry milk exports increased 13 percent to $20.9 million and butter exports totaled $14.7 million, a 451 percent increase.
Williams said global cheese demand, and dairy demand in general, is rising as more countries try to increase the amount of protein in their citizens’ diets.
He agreed with Davis that dairy exports will continue to increase but at a much slower rate than the first-quarter numbers show.
“The trend is positive,” he said. “I think (the U.S.) is sitting in a good spot and will continue to export into those markets.”
Davis said the rest of the world isn’t going to sit back and let the U.S. dominate the global market.
“We’re just getting into being a supplier to the world of dairy and we’re going to have to fight to keep our position,” he said.