The U.S. Dairy Exporter Blog: Market Analysis, Research & News

  • Newly updated Top Charts illustrate data-based trend lines for U.S. dairy exports

    By Alan Levitt February 11, 2020

    See, compare and understand just-released numbers on volume, value, key U.S. markets and more.

    We always see a lag between the end of a time period and the collection and compilation of dairy trade data for that period. On February 5, federal agencies released December 2019 data.

    This enabled the U.S. Dairy Export Council to put December and the entire 12 months of 2019 into perspective in this article.

    We have since updated what we call "Top Charts." It is one of our most viewed pages on usdec.org because it showcases data through a visual lens. This enables comparisons and other context that can lead to actionable insights. 

    Below are four of our top charts with a brief explanation of what they show. See all of our updated Top Charts here

    Value rises again; volume hits a speed bump

    U.S. dairy export value reached its highest level in five years. Since 2016, the year prior to the launch of USDEC’s Next 5% plan to grow the volume and value of U.S. dairy exports, U.S. export value is up by $1.195 billion and aggregate volume is up by 154,000 tons.

    In 2019, U.S. dairy exports were valued at $6.025 billion, up 8% from the prior year.

    chart4 (5)


    In 2019, we saw volume gains hit a speed bump due primarily to reduced Chinese purchasing, as retaliatory tariffs eroded U.S. competitiveness in China and African Swine Fever decimated China’s pig herd, reducing whey demand. The impact of those two factors on U.S. dairy exports can be seen in each of the following charts.

    Widespread value gains

    U.S. suppliers posted double-digit gains to four of their top six export markets in 2019. South America moved into the top 5 last year, passing Japan and South Korea. A doubling of sales to Colombia helped fuel the rise in exports to South America, but U.S. suppliers increased shipments to other major buyers in the region as well, including Chile (+14%), Peru (+28%) and Brazil (+13%).

    chart10 (2)


    Encouraging mid-term trends

    U.S. commitment to serving export markets is paying off with positive extended growth trends in our primary markets. The value of U.S. dairy shipments to Mexico and Southeast Asia—our two largest U.S. dairy customers—increased in each of the past three years. Those two together accounted for nearly $2.5 billion—or 41%—of sales in 2019. 

    Mexico, Southeast Asia, Canada, China and South America account for almost two-thirds of U.S. dairy exports, by value.

    chart2 (3)-1


    Strength for milk powder, cheese

    U.S. skim milk powder/nonfat dry milk (SMP/NDM) suppliers faced heightened competitive through the first eight months of the year, as the European Union disposed of the last of its intervention stockpiles of SMP at discount prices. By September (with those stocks cleared for the first time since 2015), U.S. suppliers went on a tear, shipping 29% more SMP/NDM over the last four months than they did from September-December 2018. By year-end, U.S. SMP/NDM exports cracked the 700,000-ton mark for the second time in history and fell just 2% shy of the 2018 record of 714,281 tons.

    U.S. cheese volume rose for the third straight year, reaching 357,910 tons—the second highest annual total ever. Whey volume in 2019 felt the impact of Chinese retaliatory tariffs and African Swine Fever.

    chart5 (3)-1


    These are just a few of our charts showing data-based trends in global dairy markets. You can see all of our Top Charts on usdec.org. 


    Alan Levitt is vice president of market analysis at the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

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    The U.S. Dairy Export Council fosters collaborative industry partnerships with processors, trading companies and others to enhance global demand for U.S. dairy products and ingredients. USDEC is primarily supported by Dairy Management Inc. through the dairy farmer checkoff. How to republish this post.  

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