While the U.S., Europe are still the world’s leading cheese producers, other countries are making inroads – and it’s still not enough to meet demand.
The shift in the global cheese market over the last five years has been remarkable, says Angelique Hollister with the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC).
Consider the following, she notes:
- Global cheese production is strong and the pace of export growth stronger. Global cheese production rose from 17.2 million metric tons in 2005 to an estimated 20.4 million metric tons last year—a gain of 18%. Exports increased from 1.5 million metric tons to 1.9 million metric tons—a gain of 24%.
- While the U.S. and European Union (EU) remain the world’s leading cheese producers, others are making inroads. The combined U.S. and EU share of global cheese production fell from 62% to 57% from 2005-2010. Around 70% of “new” cheese production over the same period took place outside the United States, Oceania and the EU.
- Even more striking: All that new cheese production from emerging markets is being consumed in those markets—and that still is not enough to meet demand. Consumption in Russia, Brazil and Argentina is rising on average 5-7% annually. Consumption in Mexico and South Korea is gaining around 3% annually. Other nations boast even higher growth rates because they are starting from lower bases.
- U.S. and EU cheese consumption rose as well—up 582,000 metric tons from 2005-2010—but that represents only 18% of incremental production over that time.
Writing in the June 10 issue of USDEC’s Cheese Market News, Hollister adds that the global cheese import market is similarly diversifying.
“In 2005, the top five cheese importers—Russia, Japan, the U.S., Saudi Arabia and the EU—were responsible for 59% of global cheese buying,” says Hollister, USDEC’s director of cheese and manufactured products. “Last year, those same five countries purchased only 43% of globally traded cheese.”
Due primarily to the major drop in U.S. imports (down 34%—a combined sign of rising U.S. varietal cheese prowess and unfavorable exchange rates from traditional exporters to the U.S.), the top five cheese importers buy less now than they did five years ago—despite the fact that global cheese exports have grown by 360,000 metric tons over the same period.”
The No. 6 through No. 25 importing nations in 2010 collectively purchased an additional 248,000 metric tons of cheese last year than they did in 2005.
“The globalization of the dairy industry has led to direct benefits for U.S. cheesemakers,” Hollister says. “The U.S. has become a key player in supplying the world’s cheese needs over the last five years. In 2005, we held a little less than a 4% share of global cheese trade. Last year, not only did U.S. suppliers capture 9.5%, U.S. exports hit 173,531 metric tons—a gain of nearly 200% from 2005.
To reach that level U.S. suppliers also diversified their cheese efforts, casting a broader geographic net and developing products (like lower moisture block cheese) that cater to overseas buyers’ needs.