After a lackluster October, U.S. dairy exports rebounded in November, climbing 19% in volume and 32% in value year over year.
Nonfat dry milk/skim milk powder and cheese led the way with growth rates of 25% and 40%, respectively, according to the U.S. Dairy Export Council.
Exports of NDM/SMP totaled 76,422 metric tons, easily a record amount for November. Topping the demand was Southeast Asia, with shipments 37% ahead of November 2020. That increase was driven by significant increases to Vietnam — up 292% year over year — and the Philippines, up 76%.
“Backlogged product finally making it to buyers likely contributed to regional volumes in November, but the percentage gains to Southeast Asia also benefited from a weak November 2020,” said Paul Rogers, a correspondent with USDEC.
The U.S. also saw significant increases in most other major markets, with powder exports up 37% in South America, 9% in Mexico, 196% in Central America and 27% in China.
Global demand remains strong but the U.S. price advantage over the European Union and New Zealand has narrowed significantly since September, he said.
On the cheese side, exports surged in the second half of 2021 to surpass the annual record set in 2014
“Strong demand for the United States’ major partners and weak production from primary competitors have been crucial to accelerated sales,” said Wiiliam Loux, senior director of global trade analysis for USDEC.
In November, U.S. cheese exports totaled 33,500 metric tons. Exports to Mexico increased 65% year over year, and the rest of Latin America wasn’t far behind with a 46% increase. Cheese exports were up 48% to South Korea and 10.7% to Australia.
“Indeed, the U.S. has seen growth in multiple cheese types as economies rebounds in 2021, tourism returned and consumers went back to restaurants,” Loux said.
Cheddar exports, in particular, are seeing a resurgence. Over the past several years, U.S. cheddar production has primarily been geared for the domestic market. But expanded capacity in the U.S. and competitive pricing increased cheddar exports by 30% year over year through November, he said.
“Although from a smaller base, cheddar cheese exports are growing at the fastest pace of any of the major cheese export categories this year,” he said.
Most of that growth in cheddar exports is attributable to Japan’s increased purchases for further processing. Insufficient supply from U.S. competitors and U.S. prices have enabled the U.S. to gain market share in Japan.
“Looking ahead, the picture for cheese exports — particularly cheddar — appears favorable,” he said.
International cheese demand appears resilient despite renewed COVID outbreaks, U.S. prices remain competitive and cheddar cheese plants continue to run at full capacity.
“All those factors should support further growth in cheese exports in 2022,” he said.
While powder and cheese exports surged, total whey exports were flat in November compared to November 2020. Increased exports to Southeast Asia, Japan, South Korea, Mexico and elsewhere offset the 24% decline in exports to China. Total whey exports were only up 0.3%.