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In May, U.S. export volume was the most in more than two years, paced by record sales of nonfat dry milk/skim milk powder (NDM/SMP), improved shipments of cheese, strong exports of lactose and steady volume of whey products.
The strong performance was greater than expectations in light of global lockdowns and supply disruptions due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Southeast Asia remained the number-one market for U.S. dairy, once again posting record-high volume. Sales to China continued to improve. Exports to Mexico are still lagging year-ago levels, but the May volume was an improvement on April.
In May, U.S. suppliers shipped 210,429 tons of milk powders, cheese, whey products, lactose and butterfat, 18% more than the year before. This was the highest figure since April 2018. On a solids basis, exports were also up 18%. The value of all exports was $585.2 million, 8% more than a year ago.
In the first five months of the year, U.S. dairy export product volume is up 10% and export value is up 12%.
Exports of NDM/SMP were 79,163 tons in May, the most ever, and up 24% from a year ago. Sales to Southeast Asia (primarily the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam) nearly doubled, and exports to the region accounted for almost half of all NDM/SMP volume. In the first five months of the year, U.S. powder exports to Southeast Asia were up 55% from last year, an increase of more than 10,600 tons per month.
Meanwhile, NDM/SMP sales to the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region were the most in almost six years, and shipments to China were up more than six-fold from a year ago.
In contrast, powder exports to Mexico continue to lag, with volume down 28% from last May.
Cheese exports rebounded to 35,605 tons, up 8%. May was the second-best month ever. Shipments to South Korea (+40% to a record high) and Japan (+45% to the most in almost six years) drove the gains, while sales to Australia and China more than doubled. Meanwhile, shipments to the MENA region, Mexico and Central America were lower.
May whey exports were 44,304 tons, on par with previous months. This volume was up 16% from the depressed levels of last year, though it still trailed the strong pace of 2018. All the growth in May came from China, where volume was up 153% from last year. Relative to a year ago, whey volume was lower to Mexico, South Korea and Canada.
Shipments of whey protein isolate (WPI) dipped to a seven-month low, though they were still 20% above last year. Gains were posted in volume to China, the EU and Southeast Asia.
U.S. lactose exports reached a 10-month high of 36,429 tons, up 18%. Suppliers increased sales to Southeast Asia, China and Japan.
Among other products, shipments of whole milk powder (+83%) and milk protein concentrate (+18%) were higher, while volume of butterfat (-7%) continued to lag.
On a total milk solids basis, U.S. exports were equivalent to 17.4% of U.S. milk solids production in May, the highest rate since April 2018. In the first five months of the year, exports were 15.5% of production.