U.S. dairy exports reached record volumes in 2018, up 9% over 2017. But the good news was muted somewhat by declines in sales in December, the second consecutive month of falling sales.
Suppliers shipped nearly 2.2 million tons of milk powders, cheese, butterfat, whey and lactose last year, reports the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC).
“In the face of retaliatory tariffs, global oversupply, weak commodity markets and other challenging headwinds, exports rose to an equivalent of 15.8% of U.S. milk solids production in 2018, the highest percentage ever in a calendar year,” says Alan Levitt, USDEC vice president of communications and market analysis.
The total value of those sales was $5.6 billion, up 2% over 2017. The U.S. also reclaimed its title as the world’s largest exporter of cheese last year.
However, the enthusiasm for exports was dampened by a decline in volume sales of 21% and the value of those sales down 9% in December. In November, sales volume was down 12, and down 11% in the fourth quarter of 2018.
“Loss of sales to China—America’s third-largest single-country market—followed mid-year retaliatory tariffs, playing a role in the year-end decline,” says Levitt. Sales to China in the first half of 2018 were up 17%, but then dropped by a third in the final six months, he says. Sales to Japan also fell 10% in the second half of 2018.
Nevertheless, U.S. offshore dairy sales set records in almost every category for the year:
• Non-fat dry milk/skim milk powder sales totaled 715,491 tons, up 18%.
• Cheese sales totaled 348,561 tons, up 2%.
• Lactose sales were up 9% to 392,166 tons.
• Butterfat sales rose to 44,538 tons, up 61% and the most since 2014.
• Whole milk powder shipments were up 80% to 45,706 tons.
• Milk protein concentrate shipments were up 40% to 32,701 tons.
• Fluid milk and cream were up 9%, to 115.4 million liters.
• Whey products were a mixed bag, with total whey down fractionally, but whey protein concentrate up 4% and whey protein isolates up 20%.
• Food preps hit an 8-year low, down 13%.
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