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U.S. exporters target Mexico with cheese, milk powder

Alan Levitt

Robust exports to Mexico, including record shipments of cheese, drove total U.S. dairy export value to a two-year high in May. U.S. exports were $508.9 million, up 34 percent from a year ago. Exporters shipped 169,648 tons of milk powder, cheese, butterfat, whey and lactose, up 15 percent from last May.

Nearly 30 percent of U.S. exports in May went to Mexico. South-of-the-border shipments were valued at $152 million, 71 percent greater than last year. Cheese exports were 13,565 tons, the most ever, up 75 percent (+5,835 tons). Nonfat dry milk/skim milk powder (NDM/SMP) volume was 29,772 tons, the second-most ever, up 62 percent (+11,408 tons).

Among other top markets, sales to China (+48 percent), Canada (+29 percent) and Japan (+84 percent) also were up significantly.

In the first five months of 2017, U.S. exports of NDM/SMP and whey products ran at record levels.

Exporters shipped 58,598 tons of NDM/SMP in May, up 31 percent year-over-year. In addition to increased sales to Mexico, exporters boosted exports to China (+1,925 tons), Peru (+1,339 tons) and Japan (+1,235 tons). Shipments to Southeast Asia were below year-ago levels (-1,654 tons) for the fourth straight month.

Cheese exports in May reached 35,409 tons, up 48 percent from last May and the most since March 2014. Besides Mexico, shipments were above year-ago levels to South Korea (+1,364 tons), Japan (1,187 tons) and Central America (+831 tons).

Exports of whey products totaled 44,452 tons in May, 4 percent greater than last year. Shipments of modified whey products were up 29 percent, offsetting a 24-percent loss in sales of whey protein concentrate. Total whey exports to China were 22,185 tons, up 22 percent (+4,053 tons) and the highest figure this year. Meanwhile, whey exports to Southeast Asia were off 32 percent (-2,599 tons), with loss of sales of WPC to Malaysia and Vietnam. Whey exports to Mexico and South Korea also trailed year-ago levels in May.

Lactose exports were the lowest in 28 months; volume was off 19 percent from last year. Sales to China and Japan were down by more than one-third.

U.S. exports of fluid milk and cream have been steady from month-to-month this year; in May shipments were up 8 percent vs. a year ago. Sales to Mexico (+825,000 liters) and Taiwan (+717,000 liters) were higher, offsetting declines in sales to Canada (-528,000 liters).

Shipments of butterfat and whole milk powder remain negligible - less than 2,200 tons each in May. Though volume remains small, exports of milk protein concentrate were 44 percent higher than last year.

On a total milk solids basis, U.S. exports were equivalent to 14.7 percent of U.S. milk production in May. Imports were equivalent to 3.1 percent of production.