Our Five Biggest Overseas Dairy Markets

November 25, 2013 07:17 PM

1. Mexico. "They buy everything from us," says Alan Levitt of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC). That includes cheese, butter, milk powder, whey, lactose, fluid milk and yogurt. Already a billion-dollar market, Mexico’s dairy purchases from the U.S. increased 14% in the first eight months of 2013.

2. Southeast Asia. This group of six countries -- Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam -- is an ingredients market, buying mostly skim milk powder, whey and lactose from the U.S. From January to August 2013, they bought more than $839 million in dairy products from the U.S., up 29% over the previous year.

3. Middle East/North Africa (MENA) – The No. 1 U.S. export market for butter and No. 3 for cheese, the MENA nations of Egypt, Algeria and Gulf countries continue to boost their dairy product purchases. From January through August 2013, they increased their U.S. dairy purchases by 53% over 2012, for a total of $504 million. More than 73% of U.S. 2013 export butterfat volume went to the MENA region, primarily Saudi Arabia and Iran.

4. China. As a stand-alone market, China overtook Canada in 2013 as the No. 2 export market for U.S. dairy products. In the first eight months of this year, China’s total dairy purchases from the U.S. rose 56% from 2012, for a total of $430 million. China is a powder market and by far the largest customer of American whey products. It’s No. 2 in lactose imports and No. 3 in skim milk powder purchases from the U.S.

"U.S. exports to China of nonfat dry milk and skim milk powder were up 170% this year over last," Levitt says. U.S. exports to China in 2012 totaled $415 million, up 169% from five years earlier. Looking at China’s purchasing pace through August of this year, Levitt says, "We’ll probably finish 2013 somewhere between $625 and $700 million -- remarkable for a market that was just $154 million in 2007," Levitt says.

Also remarkable: In the June-August period, U.S. exports to China reached $234 million, up from $96 million (+144%) in the same period last year.

5. Canada. The United States’ neighbor to the north remains a top market, purchasing $378 million worth of American dairy products, an increase of 19% over 2012. Canada primarily buys U.S. cheese, whey, fluid milk and milk powder blends.

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