U.S. dairy exports reach highest levels in more than a year

U.S. dairy exports were valued at $474 million in November, up 8%.

U.S. dairy exports in November were the most in more than a year, paced by record shipments of whey products, strong sales of cheese and milk powder and improved volumes of butterfat, reported Alan Levitt, vice president of communications and market analysis at the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC).

According to data, suppliers shipped 173,269 tons of milk powder, cheese, butterfat, whey and lactose in November, up 6% from last year and the highest total since October 2016. U.S. exports were valued at $474 million, up 8%.

Total whey exports were a record-high 50,590 tons, up 10% versus last year. Sales to Southeast Asia (up 22%) and China were the highest of the year, although China’s total was still shy of last year by 7%. Shipments also were strong to South Korea, up 34%, and Japan, up 78%.

Exports of modified whey were 18% higher in November, led by strong sales to China, while dry whey shipments were 15% higher, led by China and Southeast Asia. Whey protein concentrate (WPC) exports rose 7%, a result of good sales to Southeast Asia. However, this was offset by lower sales to China. Levitt explained that whey protein isolate (WPI) was the outlier among the whey categories, trailing last year by 23%. WPI suppliers saw record-high sales to Japan but a drop-off in sales to China, Canada and the European Union.

Cheese exports were 17% higher than a year ago, at 29,284 tons in November.

“Shipments to Australia were more than triple last year’s volume, and sales to both the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) and Southeast Asia more than doubled. Meanwhile, exports to Mexico and South Korea were flat, and Japan posted a 10-month low,” Levitt noted.

Exports of nonfat dry milk (NDM) and skim milk powder (SMP) in November totaled 55,044 tons, the highest since May, albeit still down 1% from last year’s strong volume. In November, Levitt reported that sales to Pakistan increased nearly four-fold, and shipments to the MENA region more than doubled compared with a year ago. Exports to Mexico and China also were higher. However, shipments to Southeast Asia – the Philippines and Vietnam, in particular – continued to lag (down 26% year over year).

Official U.S. Department of Agriculture data continue to show an increase in whole milk powder (WMP) exports to Mexico, but Levitt said Mexican import data and trade sources don’t corroborate this. As such, USDEC believes this volume represents SMP sales that were misclassified at the port, and it, therefore, has adjusted NDM/SMP and WMP trade data for June 2016 to November 2017 to account for the misclassification.

Exports of butterfat were 3,590 tons in November, up 39% and the most in nearly two years. Shipments to the MENA region (mostly Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Morocco) were nearly triple last year’s volume, Levitt noted, adding that sales to Mexico also were higher.

According to data, lactose exports have remained steady from month to month. November volumes were down fractionally versus the previous year, with stronger sales to Southeast Asia offsetting a decline in shipments to New Zealand, Levitt noted.

Fluid milk/cream exports were 38% lower in November, with a steep, 82% fall-off in sales to Canada, Levitt reported. In the fourth quarter of 2016, Levitt said Canada took more than 20,000 liters -- a volume that won’t be approached in 2017. In contrast, he said shipments to Mexico were 72% higher.

On a total milk solids basis, Levitt said U.S. exports were equivalent to 16.1% of U.S. milk production in November, the highest percentage since October 2016.

“Imports were equivalent to 3.5% of production. In the first 11 months of 2017, exports represented 14.5% of milk-solids output,” he said.

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