cheddar cheese blocks

Cheese sales lift August export volumes

Butter fat shipments pick up, offsetting slowdown in other product sales.

U.S. dairy exports improved in August, posting the second-highest volume in the last 10 months, the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) reported.

According to Alan Levitt, USDEC vice president of communications and market analysis, cheese led the charge, and butterfat shipments also picked up, offsetting a slowdown in sales of nonfat dry milk/skim milk powder (NDM/SMP), whey products and lactose.

Suppliers shipped 164,279 tons of milk powder, cheese, butterfat, whey and lactose during the month, up 2% from last year. U.S. exports were valued at $469 million, up 17% and slightly above the monthly average since last October.

“Though export volumes to most destinations were above year-earlier levels, suppliers continue to see slower ingredient sales to Southeast Asia,” Levitt noted. Shipments of NDM/SMP, whey and lactose were 21% lower in August.

USDEC reported that exports to Mexico were flat, with stronger cheese and whey sales offset by lower milk powder shipments.

Cheese exports in August were 30,370 tons, exceeding last year’s volume by 35%. For the first time, Australia was the number-two destination for U.S. cheese, taking 3,900 tons -- nearly triple the volume of a year ago. Exports to Mexico (up 32%, or 2,047 tons, for the year) and Japan (up 113%, or 1,552 tons) were higher as well, and sales to the Middle East/North Africa region (2,075 tons) were the greatest since December 2015.

Exports of NDM/SMP totaled 49,046 tons (down 9%) in August, down for the second straight month, USDEC noted. Sales to the top two markets — Mexico and Southeast Asia — were lower. Exports to Mexico were down 8% (4,845 tons) and to Southeast Asia were down 26% (4,489 tons). In contrast, USDEC said sales to Japan (1,958 tons) were the second-most ever. USDEC pointed out that the calculations reflect adjustments made to U.S. Department of Agriculture data to reflect shipments misclassified as whole milk powder (WMP).

Whey exports were flat for the second straight month, the latest data showed. Total shipments were 47,992 tons, with gains in whey protein concentrate and modified whey offsetting double-digit declines in dry whey and whey protein isolate. USDEC said August whey protein concentrate exports were the most in more than a year, while whey protein isolate sales were the lowest in nearly two years (on a daily average basis).

Suppliers saw a slowdown in whey sales to China in recent months. In the June-to-August period, shipments were down 7% from last year. Meanwhile, whey exports to Mexico were up 60% (up 2,629 tons) in August.

Year to date, both NDM/SMP and whey export volumes were record high, USDEC reported.

In the June-to-August period, U.S. suppliers exported 8,219 tons of butterfat, up 158% from last year. Canada has been the major customer, taking 4,187 tons in three months -- more than triple year-earlier purchases.

Lactose exports were off 10% in August due to drops in sales to Southeast Asia (up 34%, or 2,620 tons) and New Zealand (down 42%, or 1,754 tons).

WMP exports (2,741 tons) were the highest of the year. Shipments to China/Hong Kong (1,714 tons) were a record high.

On a total milk solids basis, USDEC reported that U.S. exports were equivalent to 15.0% of U.S. milk production in August, topping 15% for the first time since last November. Imports were equivalent to 3.4% of production.

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