U.S. dairy exports set new volume and value records again in 2022 despite rampant inflation and a host of other challenges to international trade. It was the third straight record year for volume and the second for value.
Newly released USDA numbers showed U.S. dairy exports to the world totaled $9.6 billion last year, topping the 2021 dairy export value record by 25% and representing an 85% increase in just the past 10 years. It is also the first time it has ever crossed the $9-billion mark.
U.S. dairy exports logged 2.82 million metric tons of volume in 2022, another record and a 52% increase over the past 10 years. Export volume in 2022 was equivalent to 18% of U.S. milk produced last year, also an all-time high.
“We’ve had three consecutive years of record U.S. dairy exports while facing some of the strongest dairy export headwinds that we’ve ever seen,” said Krysta Harden, president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC). “Last year, we saw historic global inflation, slowing economic growth, lingering supply chain challenges and severely reduced Chinese demand. U.S. dairy export performance under those conditions is a testament to U.S. suppliers’ commitment to global markets and also to the value consumers in those markets have come to place on U.S. dairy products.”
The U.S. continued to assert itself as a growing player in international dairy trade. Through 11 months, it had increased its global market share by two points to 25% (full-year results are unavailable until the European Union reports December data). The U.S. set annual export records in cheese, whey and lactose. U.S. cheese shipments were particularly notable, rising 12% to 451,370 metric tons (MT) or nearly 1 billion lbs.
“The U.S. dairy industry didn’t get to this point overnight. It’s taken more than two decades of hard work to reach it—work strengthening the global reputation of the U.S. as a reliable supplier of high-quality dairy products, building relationships with overseas buyers, promoting dairy consumption in high-potential markets, and investing in people, products, and infrastructure specifically to serve the varying needs of consumers from Tokyo to Dubai to Lima," Harden said.
Some 2022 highlights include:
- The U.S. increased cheese sales, posting sales gains across continents. Growth highlights included: Mexico, up 18%; Middle East/North Africa (MENA), up 41%; Japan, up 17%; Central America, up 17%; Caribbean, up 25%; South Korea, up 9%; Australia, up 14%; and Colombia, up 28%.
- U.S. suppliers had their best year for butterfat exports since 2013. Sales rose 43% to 81,721 MT, led by triple-digit gains to Canada and Mexico. U.S. butterfat shipments to Canada more than doubled (up 18,345 MT), while exports to Mexico grew more than four-fold (up 11,173 MT). U.S. suppliers also saw strong increases to South Korea (up 153%, up 5,253 MT) and Bahrain (up 38%, up 2,457 MT).
- U.S. milk protein concentrate (MPC) exports increased 16% to 47,434 MT, led by growth to Mexico (up 2,902 MT), Southeast Asia (up 2,746 MT) and Egypt (up 2,644 MT).
- U.S. whey sales were down through the first five months of the year before logging seven consecutive months of double-digit year-over-year growth. The decline in the first five months was largely due to significantly reduced Chinese demand. Chinese purchasing began to rise midyear as domestic pork prices rallied (whey is heavily used in pig feed in China) and U.S. whey prices grew more competitive. U.S. whey exports to China ended the year up 10% (up 26,406 MT). U.S. whey shipments to Southeast Asia, the No. 2 U.S. market, grew 6% (up 7,713 MT) in 2022. Exports to Canada increased 43% (up 17,008 MT) and South America rose 56% (up 8,833 MT).
“Every year can’t be a new record, and we are bound to have some down years. But over the long term, overseas demand for U.S. dairy has risen for the last two decades and we believe it will continue to increase moving forward,” said Harden. “The rising global population, the growing middle class and the need for sustainable, affordable nutrition will continue to drive dairy consumption growth. And our biggest competitors—the European Union and New Zealand—are facing challenging supply outlooks and government policies limiting their capacity to grow.”
Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), said the export figures represent the pace at which the U.S. dairy industry is innovating and capitalizing on opportunities to sell U.S.-made dairy products overseas.
“Consumers in the United States and around the world continue to demand more U.S. dairy because we provide an assortment of delicious, nutritious, affordable, and sustainable dairy products. From high-value whey to award-winning cheeses, from milk powders used to make life-saving products for children and adults to safe and nutritious, shelf-stable milk, U.S. dairy is known throughout the world for quality and reliability,” he said. “We are poised to become the world’s leading supplier of dairy products thanks to the resilience and innovation of American dairy exporters and dairy foods companies.”
Still, as U.S. milk production continues to increase over the next decade while other dairy-producing competitors see decreasing production, Dykes said the U.S. government must ensure there are functioning, efficient avenues for U.S. dairy exports to meet growing global demand.
“IDFA urges the Biden Administration and Congress to pursue new free trade agreements in emerging markets for U.S. dairy and to continue to hold trading partners with whom we have agreements to their commitments.”