U.S. dairy exports march on

U.S. dairy exports improved in March 2010, with their strongest showing since September 2008.

In March, exports were equivalent to 11.1% of U.S. milk solids production, with record-high shipments of cheese and increases in exports of milk powders, whey proteins, butterfat and lactose. Meanwhile, imports as a percent of milk solids production were just 2.7% in March.

The value of March 2010 U.S. dairy exports were estimated at $296 million, up 32% from February 2010, up $123 million from March 2009, and the highest monthly total since September 2008.

The value of U.S. dairy imports was up 11% in March 2010, to $219 million, but $19 million less than March 2009.

Y-T-D fiscal year 2010 (October 2009-March 2010) exports total $1.43 billion, up 18% from the same period in FY ’09. Y-T-D FY ’10 imports total $1.30 billion, down 20% from the same period last year. The FY ’10 trade surplus is estimated at about $132 million.

March 2010 cheese imports were valued at $77 million, up 16% from February. Y-T-D FY ’10 cheese imports were valued at $520 million, down 8% from a year ago.

Product information

Exports of nonfat dry milk/skim milk powder (NDM/SMP) jumped in March. Suppliers shipped 25,599 tons, up 63% from a year ago. In the first quarter, U.S. exports of NDM/SMP were 54,034 tons, up 7%. In the January-March period, shipments to Mexico were up 14% and exports to the Philippines were up 19%. In addition, new sales were seen in China and the Middle East.

Exports of whey proteins were in line with the levels seen over the last six months. Dry sweet whey exports were 19,233 tons, down 5% from March 2009. Exports of whey protein concentrate were 15,184 tons, up 26%. Shipments of whey protein isolate were 1,601 tons, down 2%. Total whey protein exports were up 6% from the prior year. Year-to-date, U.S. exports of whey proteins were 105,588 tons, up 29%, led by gains of 78% in shipments to Southeast Asia and 34% in sales to China. In addition, exports to Mexico were up 23%.

Cheese exports in March were a record-high 13,433 tons (29.6 million lbs.), up 70% from March 2009. In the January-March period, U.S. exports of cheese were 32,860 tons, up 33%. In the first quarter, sales to Japan (+125%), South Korea (+43%) and the Middle East (+61%) were considerably higher. Exports to Mexico, our largest market, were down 4% from a year ago.

U.S. suppliers exported 19,703 tons of lactose in March, up 14% from last year. Year-to-date, U.S. exports of lactose were 53,647 tons, up 19%. Leading customers were Southeast Asia, Japan, China, Mexico and New Zealand.

Butterfat exports in March were 4,132 tons, more than triple (+204%) last year’s volume. Year-to-date, U.S. exports of butterfat were 9,439 tons, up 83%. In the first quarter, about a third of our sales went to the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia the largest buyer. Russia, Egypt and Morocco all made purchases after making none last year.

Among other key products:

• Fluid milk: March +101%; YTD +20%

• Food preps: March -14%; YTD -8%

• Whole milk powder: March +139%; YTD +121%

• Ice cream: March +9%; YTD +5%

In the first quarter, exports (by value) were up to nearly all destinations compared with the prior year. Shipments to Mexico, the largest U.S. market, were up 28%; with large gains also posted to Southeast Asia (+93%), China (+98%), the Caribbean (+69%), Japan (+36%), the Middle East (+59%) and South Korea (+60%).

In the first quarter of the year, U.S. exports were equivalent to 26% of the NDM/SMP produced, 62% of the whey proteins, 58% of the lactose, 2.9% of the cheese and 4.7% of the butter.

Sources: USDA, U.S. Dairy Export Council