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Though still down about 15 percent from the peak levels of first-half 2014, U.S. export volume posted an 11-month high in May (on a daily-average basis), led by improved sales of whey, lactose and whole milk powder (WMP).
U.S. exporters shipped 157,909 tons of milk powders, cheese, butterfat, whey and lactose in May, up 1 percent from April (daily-average basis) though still down 10 percent year-over-year. Overall exports were valued at $379.4 million, down 24 percent from a year ago.
Total whey exports were 42,378 tons, the most since last May, led by improved volumes to China (also the most since May 2015). Exports of whey protein concentrate (WPC) were near-record highs for the second straight month, bringing year-to-date shipments to 103,029 tons, the most ever. Exports of whey protein isolate (WPI) have been generally steady, month to month, since December. But May's total (2,692 tons) was well below a year ago, when China made record purchases. Dry whey exports were down 20 percent from last year, and year-to-date sales are the lowest since 2004. But May volume (16,229 tons) was the most since last July, with stronger sales to China vs. recent months.
Exports of lactose were 30,835 tons in May, the most since last September and up 22 percent compared with a year ago. Major customers remain Southeast Asia, China and New Zealand.
Trade data shows a large increase in exports of WMP. U.S. suppliers moved 9,198 tons, the most in more than 17 years, and more than triple the volume posted a year ago. For the second straight month, more than 70 percent of the sales went to Mexico.
Exports of the two other major categories - nonfat dry milk/skim milk powder (NDM/SMP) and cheese - continue to lag year-ago levels.
Shipments of NDM/SMP were 43,899 tons, down 28 percent year-over-year. More than 40 percent of the volume went to Mexico. Sales to Southeast Asia and China were weaker.
Cheese exports in May were 23,909 tons, down 19 percent from last year. May marked the 20th straight month in which cheese exports trailed prior-year levels. Sales to all major customers were below last May. Year-to-date sales are down 9,600 tons/month from two years ago and volume is the lowest since 2011.
Meanwhile, overseas sales of butterfat in May were just 645 tons, down 57 percent from last year and the lowest figure since July 2009. Exports were less than 1 percent of U.S. butter production during the month.
On a total milk solids basis, U.S. exports were equivalent to 13.7 percent of U.S. milk production in May, the highest since last September. Imports were equivalent to 3.6 percent of production.