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U.S. dairy export volume up 9% in January

Alan Levitt

U.S. dairy exporters picked up in 2018 where they left off at the end of 2017, topping the prior-year level for the third straight month. Suppliers shipped 160,746 tons of milk powder, cheese, butterfat, whey and lactose during the month, up 9% from last January. U.S. exports were valued at $415 million, up 1%.

Exports of cheese and whey products were particularly strong.

Cheese exports were 26,946 tons in January, up 19% from a year earlier. One-third of U.S. shipments went to Mexico, where exports were up 62% for the month. Sales to Japan (+40%), South Korea (+13%) and the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region (+31%) also were higher.

Total whey exports were 48,656 tons in January, up 18% vs. the year before, led by a 30% increase in shipments of dry whey. Total whey exports to China were up 8% in January, while shipments to Southeast Asia were up by one-third. Sales to Japan more than doubled. In addition to the large gain in dry whey exports, shipments of whey protein concentrate (WPC) were up 16%, year-over-year, and exports of whey protein isolate (WPI) were up 11%. In both WPC and WPI, gains were led by China.

Exports of nonfat dry milk/skim milk powder (NDM/SMP) in January were 49,614 tons, up 3%. More than 40% of U.S. NDM/SMP overseas sales went to Mexico, where export volumes were up 4% from the prior year. Sales to Southeast Asia and China were lower, but this was mostly offset by volume gains to Peru, Pakistan and Japan.

Lactose exports were 30,739 tons in January, up 7%. China (+28%) was the number-one market for U.S. lactose for the third straight month.

Exports of butterfat were just 1,741 tons in January, down 6%. Nearly half the volume went to Canada. Shipments of whole milk powder (WMP) and milk protein concentrate (MPC) remain negligible.

Fluid milk/cream exports were down 7% in January, with a steep fall-off in sales to Canada (-64%). Meanwhile, shipments to Taiwan were up 56%.

Among top markets, gains were strongest for Japan (+31% vs. a year earlier), the Caribbean (+29%) and the MENA region (+20%).

On a total milk solids basis, U.S. exports were equivalent to 13.9% of U.S. milk production in January, while imports were equivalent to just 3.1%.