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Dairy exports stronger in November

Value of exports rises 21% to highest level since April 2015.

U.S. dairy exports continued to improve in November, increasing from prior months and topping year-ago levels for the third straight month, according the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC). U.S. suppliers shipped 179,113 tons of milk powders, cheese, whey products, lactose and butterfat during the month, the most since March and up 14% from a year ago. On a solids basis, total dairy exports were up 16%. The value of all exports was $536.4 million, up 21% and the most since April 2015 (on a daily average basis).

Exports of nonfat dry milk (NDM)/skim milk powder (SMP) and lactose also rose, as did cheese and whey protein concentrate/isolate. USDEC reported that U.S. suppliers posted record shipments of NDM/SMP to Southeast Asia for the second straight month. In addition, the total volume of exports to China was the highest of the year and down only 10% from the depressed level of 2018.

The latest data showed that the value of exports to Southeast Asia was the highest in more than four years, up 57% to $96.5 million. Exports to South America reached a record high $40.7 million, with more than half going to Colombia. In November, Colombia was the eighth-largest U.S. export market, USDEC relayed.

Exports of NDM/SMP totaled 67,408 tons in November, up 41% from a year ago, which USDEC said was partly due to the clearance of European Union intervention stocks several months earlier. U.S. shipments to Southeast Asia totaled 27,384 tons, more than double year-ago levels. According to USDEC, gains were broad based, with significant increases seen for all countries within the region. In addition, shipments to Colombia increased more than five-fold, sales to China and the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region were the highest of 2019 and exports to Bangladesh were the most in nearly nine years.

Sales to Mexico, on the other hand, fell 24% to the lowest volume in nearly two years. USDEC said this made Southeast Asia the U.S.’s largest NDM/SMP customer (above Mexico) for the first time since July 2016.

Cheese exports in November, at 28,439 tons, were the most in five months and up 6% from last year. Sales rebounded to South Korea (up 42%) and Japan (up 54%), and shipments to Mexico (up 12%) remained strong. Meanwhile, U.S. suppliers lost sales to Australia, with exports down 47% to the lowest volume since April 2016.

USDEC reported that lactose exports also were higher in November, totaling 31,982 tons, up 24%. Sales were higher to New Zealand (up 112%), Mexico (up 51%) and Southeast Asia (up 24%), while shipments to China (down 17%) continued to lag.

Shipments of fluid milk/cream remained on a record pace, with exports through November up 14% from last year. The largest increases during the month went to Taiwan, USDEC reported.

Meanwhile, total whey exports were the strongest in five months (38,325 tons), although still 7% below a year ago.

“This year, whey protein isolate volume will be the most ever, but dry whey exports will be the lowest since 2003,” USDEC noted.

Total whey sales to China were down 28% from last year, with dry whey (down 69%) and whey protein isolate (down 56%) suffering the most. However, shipments of whey protein concentrate and modified whey products were up 16% from a year ago, which USDEC said was likely a function of tariff relief on whey permeate for feed use.

Among other top buyers, total whey sales to Southeast Asia were down 2%, with gains in Indonesia offset by declines in Vietnam.

Whole milk powder exports were up 6% in November as a result of continued strong sales to Colombia, USDEC noted. However, sales to Vietnam, the U.S.’s largest customer in 2018, have dried up this year.

Among other products, exports of butterfat (down 63%) and milk protein concentrate (down 7%) lagged behind prior-year levels.

On a total milk solids basis, U.S. exports in November were equivalent to 15.8% of U.S. milk solids production. USDEC reported that exports in the first 11 months of the year accounted for 14.6% of production.

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