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U.S. dairy exports rise in 2017

Strong overseas sales of milk powder, whey products and cheese support pace.

U.S. dairy exports reached $5.48 billion in 2017, a 14% increase from 2016 and the most in three years, according to Alan Levitt, vice president of communications and market analysis for the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC).

In volume terms, suppliers shipped 1.935 million tons of milk powder, cheese, butterfat, whey and lactose last year, up 6% and surpassing the previous high volume exported in 2014, according to USDEC’s analysis of year-end numbers the U.S. Department of Agriculture released this week.

On a total milk solids basis, U.S. exports were equivalent to 14.7% of total U.S. milk production in 2017, up from 14.2% in 2016 and the highest percentage since 2014. Imports were equivalent to 3.4% of production.

USDEC reported that exporters enjoyed gains across most major markets, with Mexico remaining the number-one trading partner. Sales to Mexico in 2017 totaled $1.3 billion, up 8%. Other notable increases in value came from China (up 49%), Japan (up 41%), Oceania (up 50%), South Korea (up 21%) and the Middle East/North Africa region (up 21%).

Nonfat dry milk/skim milk powder and whey exports posted new record highs in 2017, while cheese reached a three-year high, increasing 19% and topping prior-year volumes in almost every month. Levitt said these three categories make up more than two-thirds of U.S. dairy exports.

Exports of butterfat increased 14% in 2017 to 27,653 tons. Lactose exports totaled 360,8762 tons last year, down fractionally. Fluid milk/cream exports were also lower, down 10% last year. Exports of whole milk powder totaled 25,411 tons, down fractionally. Exports of milk protein concentrate rose 7% to 23,160 tons.

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