SUN VALLEY, Idaho — Dairy products have led Idaho’s agricultural exports for a couple of years and are a major factor in a record-setting run in ag exports for the past several years, according to an official with the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.
Dairy is a success story in Idaho’s export arena, said Laura Johnson, market development bureau chief at the Ag Department, during the Milk Processors of Idaho annual conference last week in Sun Valley.
Dairy exports in the first six months of the year, at $213 million, were up 52 percent over $140 million in the same period last year, she said.
“That’s incredible, because last year was a record year and the year before that was a record year,” she said.
In addition, milk lactose — coded under sugar exports — adds $26 million to dairy exports in the first six months, bringing the total to $239 million, although lactose exports are down from $32.6 million in the first half of 2013, she said.
Idaho’s dairy export tally is actually much higher than the state’s figures because a lot of the state’s dairy products head for export markets through brokers and companies in other states, she said.
Cheese, for the first time, topped the list of dairy exports in the first half of the year, followed by dry milk, whey, butter, and lactose.
Imports of Idaho dairy were led by South Korea, followed by Mexico, China, Vietnam, Japan, and Indonesia.
The state’s three international trade offices have been a big part of Idaho’s dairy export success, Johnson said.
The state has operated overseas offices in Taiwan since 1989, Mexico since 1994 and China since 2000.
Recent overseas marketing efforts include dairy newsletters in Chinese in Taiwan and Spanish in Mexico; trade missions and participation in trade shows.
A governor’s trade mission to Asia in April 2013 included stops at Seoul, South Korea; Taipei, Taiwan; and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The state also partnered with Western United States Agricultural Trade Association in menu promotion in Taiwan in April 2013 and a trade mission to Southeast Asia in the summer of 2012.
The Idaho State Department of Agriculture, along with Idaho dairy processors, participated in an international dairy expo in Mexico in April 2013. The department will also partner with United Dairymen of Idaho in a dairy congress in Mexico in September and a food ingredients show in Asia in October.
Upcoming possibilities under discussion include a promotional paring of Idaho beer and cheese in Taiwan and an animal feed trade show in China.
“We are very fortunate in this state to have such diversified dairy products,” Johnson said.
That gives the state more opportunity and a broad customer base, she said.