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U.S. dairy exports improved in August, posting the second-highest volume in the last 10 months. Cheese led the way and butterfat shipments picked up, offsetting a slowdown in sales of nonfat dry milk/skim milk powder (NDM/SMP), whey products and lactose.
Suppliers shipped 164,279 tons of milk powder, cheese, butterfat, whey and lactose during the month, up 2 percent from last year. U.S. exports were valued at $469 million, up 17 percent, and slightly above the monthly average since last October. Though export volumes to most destinations were above year-earlier levels, suppliers continue to see slower ingredient sales to Southeast Asia. Shipments of NDM/SMP, whey and lactose were down 21 percent in August. Meanwhile, exports to Mexico were flat, with stronger cheese and whey sales offset by lower milk powder shipments.
Cheese exports in August were 30,370 tons, exceeding last year's volume by 35 percent. For the first time, Australia was the number-two destination for U.S. cheese, taking 3,900 tons, nearly triple the volume of a year ago. Exports to Mexico (+32 percent, +2,047 tons, year-over-year) and Japan (+113 percent, +1,552 tons) were higher as well, and sales to the Middle East/North Africa region (2,075 tons) were the most since December 2015.
Exports of NDM/SMP were 49,046 tons (-9 percent) in August, down for the second straight month. Sales to the top two markets were lower; Mexico was down -18 percent (-4,845 tons) and Southeast Asia was down -26 percent (-4,489 tons). In contrast, sales to Japan (1,958 tons) were the second-most ever. (Note: these calculations reflect adjustments we've made to the USDA data to reflect shipments misclassified as WMP.)
Whey exports were flat for the second straight month. Total shipments were 47,992 tons, with gains in whey protein concentrate (WPC) and modified whey offsetting double-digit declines in dry whey and whey protein isolate (WPI). August WPC exports were the most in more than a year, while WPI sales were the lowest in nearly two years (on a daily average basis). Suppliers saw a slowdown in whey sales to China in recent months. In the June-August period, shipments were down 7 percent from last year. Meanwhile, whey exports to Mexico were up 60 percent (+2,629 tons) in August.
Year-to-date, both NDM/SMP and whey export volumes were record highs.
In the June-August period, U.S. suppliers exported 8,219 tons of butterfat, up 158 percent from last year. Canada has been the major customer, taking 4,187 tons in three months, more than triple year-earlier purchases.
Lactose exports were off 10 percent in August, due to drops in sales to Southeast Asia (-34 percent, -2,620 tons) and New Zealand (-42 percent, -1,754 tons).
WMP exports (2,741 tons) were the highest of the year. Shipments to China/Hong Kong (1,714 tons) were a record high.
On a total milk solids basis, U.S. exports were equivalent to 15.0 percent of U.S. milk production in August, topping 15 percent for the first time since last November. Imports were equivalent to 3.4 percent of production.