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NDM/SMP stands out as December highlight

Alan Levitt

Nonfat dry milk/skim milk powder (NDM/SMP) exports closed the year on a high note, totaling 46,199 tons in December, 35 percent above year-ago levels. More than 60 percent of the sales growth came from Mexico, while shipments to Peru topped 4,300 tons, a record high. For the year, U.S. exports of NDM/SMP eclipsed the 2014 total by 3 percent.

Including all dairy products, U.S. exports totaled $384 million during December, down 19 percent from the previous year. On a volume basis, aggregate dairy exports of milk powders, cheese, butterfat, whey and lactose were 3 percent below year-ago levels during the month. While shipments of NDM/SMP were higher, the gains were not enough to offset lower export volumes across almost all other dairy product categories.

December cheese exports of 24,787 tons were down 9 percent from the prior year. Exporters posted increases in sales to the Middle Eastern/North Africa (MENA) region, Australia and Central America, but sales to top markets Mexico, South Korea and Japan were down.

Whey product shipments totaled 31,782 tons in December, 20 percent below the previous year, and the third lowest figure in the last five years (daily-average basis). Sales to China were down 40 percent from the year before. Meanwhile, exports of lactose were down 3 percent during December as orders from Southeast Asia, China and New Zealand slowed.

Also down, butterfat exports came in 51 percent below year-ago levels in December, with just 11 tons to the MENA region. During 2015, U.S. suppliers moved just 8,966 tons of butterfat to the MENA region, a fraction of the volumes shipped in 2014 (43,829 tons) and 2013 (58,063 tons).

In December, U.S. exporters shipped just 776 tons of whole milk powder, the lowest figure since June 2011.

During all of 2015, U.S. dairy exports amounted to $5.2 billion, nearly two billion dollars less than the 2014 record ($7.1 billion). Much of that was due to price deflation; on a volume basis, aggregate exports of milk powders, cheese, butterfat, whey and lactose were down 8 percent vs. 2014.

On a total milk solids basis, U.S. exports were equivalent to 12.8 percent of U.S. milk production in December and imports were equivalent to 3.8 percent of production. During all of 2015, exports totaled 14.0 percent of milk production, while imports were equivalent to 3.6 percent of output.