2017 dairy exports highest in three years

U.S. dairy exports were up 14 percent in value and 6 percent in volume in 2017 over the previous year, the highest in three years.

Sales were $5.48 billion, the highest in three years. Shipments totaled 1.935 million metric tons, breaking the previous record of 1.934 million metric tons in 2014.

Those exports represented 14.7 percent of U.S. milk production in 2017, up from 14.2 percent in 2016 and the highest since the 15.4 percent in 2014, U.S. Dairy Export Council reported earlier this month.

Strong purchases of nonfat dry milk/skim milk powder, whey products and cheese drove the increase, and significant gains were seen across most major markets.

Those three commodities represent more than two-thirds of U.S. dairy exports, and exports accounted for 57 percent of the U.S. production of NDM/SMP, 46 percent of dry sweet whey production and 6 percent of cheese production.

The U.S. had record exports of skim milk powder and whey products in 2017 and a strong gain in cheese, Alan Levitt, USDEC vice president of communications and market analysis, said.

“For most of 2017, our pricing in these categories was favorable relative to our competitors. We had product to sell, and our exporters did a good job of building business,” he said.

It probably also helped that the U.S. dollar weakened against the Euro as the year went on, he said.

“On cheese, our gains were very broad-based – higher in all our major markets. That tells me our exporters were out there working around the world, turning over stones,” he said.

The U.S. also sold a lot more whey product and milk powder to China, capitalizing on its strong import demand, and opened new markets for products — with record sales of fluid milk to Taiwan, skim milk powder to Japan and lactose to Mexico, he said.

Sales to No. 1 customer Mexico were up 8 percent to $1.3 billion. Nearly half of U.S. powder exports went to Mexico, where sales were down slightly. Lactose exports to the country were up 25 percent, whey was up 19 percent and cheese was up 7 percent. Shipments of butterfat, however, were down 55 percent.

Exports to China, the fourth-largest market for U.S. dairy, increased a whopping 49 percent to $577 million. Nearly 45 percent of U.S. whey went to China, where purchase increased16 percent. Sales of milk powder were up 90 percent and cheese sales increased 44 percent.

Other notable increases include a 50 percent increase to Oceania at $258 million; a 21 percent increase to South Korea at $280 million; and a 21 percent increase to the Middle East and North Africa at $234 million.

While there were gains and losses within the product mix to Southeast Asia and Canada, the second and third largest markets for U.S. dairy, respectively, the net sum gain was positive. Exports to Southeast Asia at $690 million were 3 percent higher, and exports to Canada at $636 million were 1 percent higher.

Sales to Japan, the fifth largest U.S dairy market, were up an impressive 41 percent to $291 million. Powder exports increased 249 percent.

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