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  • Value of U.S. Exports Hits Four-Year High in May

    By USDEC Staff July 3, 2019

    But lost sales to China still eroding overall volume.   

    Total U.S. dairy exports in May were valued at $539.1 million, up 6% and the most in four years, fueled by an increase in cheese exports and aided by improved world prices. In the first five months of the year, overall volume is on track for the third-best year ever, only trailing the pace of 2018 and 2014.

    May’s exports continued trends of recent months. Overall volume trailed the strong levels of May 2018, but nearly all the shortfall came from lost sales to China. Shipments of milk powders, cheese, butterfat, whey products, and lactose to China were down 67%, while exports to the rest of the world were down just 1%. In total, U.S. export volume was off 13% from a year ago.

    Chart2 (3)-1

    Cheese remains a bright spot. Exports in May were up 11%, and year-to-date volume is the highest in five years. Shipments to Southeast Asia, Japan and South Korea were all up by more than 1,000 tons from a year ago. Sales to Indonesia were particularly strong (1,317 tons, up five-fold and the most in six years). However, in Mexico, the largest market for U.S. cheese, exports are down 7% year to date.

    Chart4 (3)-1

    Exports of NDM/SMP were 63,607 tons in May, the most in 12 months. Sales to Mexico and Peru were the most in nine and 15 months, respectively. These gains were offset by continued declines in sales to China and Pakistan.

    (USDEC has adjusted official U.S. Bureau of Census trade data for NDM/SMP and WMP since June 2016 to account for shipments we believe are misclassified.)

    The whey category is where the lost sales to China show up most dramatically. Total U.S. whey exports were 37,961 tons in May, down 29% from last year. Shipments to China were just 6,931 tons, down 67%, and the lowest monthly volume in nearly nine years. Dry whey sales to China were the lowest in 11 years (-83% year-over-year), and whey protein concentrate and modified whey (permeate) exports were off 60% from a year ago.

    Whey sales to Japan also were lighter, with dry whey shipments the lowest in more than 15 years.

    U.S. suppliers were able to divert some sales to Southeast Asia (led by Thailand and Malaysia), where total whey volumes reached a record high 11,525 tons in May (+17%).

    Overall exports of WPC were the highest since last September, with Southeast Asia and Mexico posting their highest totals since fall 2017.

    In contrast, exports of modified whey (permeate) are running at their lowest year-to-date pace since 2011.

    Lactose exports were 30,008 tons in May, down 14%. Again, lost sales to China were significant: volume was down 52% from a year ago and was the lowest month in more than five years. Sales elsewhere couldn’t compensate for the drop-off.

    Among other products, exports of butterfat (-41%) and whole milk powder (-34%) trailed last year’s level, while shipments of fluid milk and cream were up 24%.

    On a total milk solids basis, U.S. exports were equivalent to 14.7% of U.S. milk solids production in May. During the first five months of the year, exports were equivalent to 14.2% of production, compared with an average of 14.7% from 2014-18.

    To use interactive charts with current and historical trade data, see's page on U.S. export data.

    To download a printable PDF summary with charts showing May   trade data in detail, click here

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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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