BOISE — Strong dairy sales were behind a 16 percent increase in the value of Idaho agricultural exports during the first six months of the year.
The value of farm products exported from Idaho totaled $582 million from January to June, according to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.
That's a 16.28 percent increase over the $500 million total during the same period last year and up significantly over $466 million in 2012.
Idaho is on track to set an annual record for ag exports for the fourth straight year.
Sales of Idaho dairy products abroad totaled $213 million during the first half of 2014, a 52 percent increase over 2013.
Cheese exports rose 177 percent to $76 million.
Most of the milk produced in Idaho is used to make cheese, so that's a good sign for the state's dairy producers, said Milk Producers of Idaho Executive Director Brent Olmstead.
"Milk prices are up and cheese exports are up,” he said. “It shows we have a very healthy industry in Idaho.”
Total U.S. dairy exports reached a record $3.92 billion during the first half of the year, and U.S. cheese exports were up 34 percent from last year's record pace, according to the U.S. Dairy Export Council.
"We attribute this to continued strong global demand, and continued commitment from U.S. exporters," USDEC Vice President of Communications Alan Levitt told the Capital Press in an email.
But Levitt also said second half conditions "will be much more challenging. World prices have come down quite a bit over the last six months while U.S. prices are still historically high. For U.S. suppliers, the domestic market might offer better returns in the short term."
Idaho ag exports to the state's top two markets, Canada and Mexico, rose 7.7 percent to $126 million and 16 percent to $94 million, respectively, while sales to South Korea jumped 96 percent to $57 million.
A big increase in frozen potato sales, including french fries, was a big factor in the increase in exports to Mexico. Frozen potato sales there were up 58 percent to $24 million.
Idaho dairy sales to South Korea, mostly cheese, jumped 165 percent to $50 million.
Exports to the country's No. 4 market, China, dropped 25 percent to $35 million, but they rose 38 percent ($34 million) to Japan.
Total Idaho ag exports to Vietnam rose 356 percent to $16.75 million during the first half and dairy accounted for 99 percent of that.
Idaho vegetable exports increased 6 percent to $83 million and that category was led by the sale of pulse crops — peas, lentils and chickpeas.
Tim McGreevy, CEO of the U.S. Dry Pea and Lentil Council, said exports of pulse crops, particularly dry peas, have been strong this year compared with 2013.
U.S. producers shipped 447,000 metric tons of peas abroad through the end of June, up from 279,000 metric tons last year.
Exports of potato flakes were up 119 percent to $25 million, and malt sales were up slightly to $31 million.