Strong global demand and tight supply helped drive U.S. dairy exports to a second consecutive volume record in 2021 and a new all-time high in value. U.S. export volume last year increased 10% over 2020 to more than 2.3 million metric tons (MT) milk solid equivalent. Value rose 18% to $7.75 billion.
- The U.S. set annual export records in cheese, nonfat dry milk/skim milk powder (NFDM/SMP), whey, lactose, and fluid milk and cream. U.S. cheese shipments topped 400,000 MT for the first time and whey surpassed 600,000 MT for the first time. NFDM/SMP fell just shy of 900,000 MT, topping out at 892,528 MT.
- U.S. dairy exports to Mexico rebounded strongly in 2021 alongside Mexico’s economic recovery. U.S. cheese sales to Mexico set a record, rising 13% and exceeding 100,000 MT for the first time. U.S. NFDM/SMP sales to Mexico jumped 18% to 337,846 MT, second highest in history. Mexico accounted for more than a quarter of total U.S. cheese exports in 2021 and 38% of U.S. NFDM/SMP shipments.
- U.S. cheese exports jumped 14% in 2021 to 404,675 MT, led by strong demand from Latin America. Shipments to Central America soared 53% and the additional 12,117 MT U.S. suppliers shipped there last year represents the largest cheese export gain to any major market. Exports to South America jumped 33%, while shipments to Mexico grew 13%.
- U.S. suppliers had their best year for butterfat exports since 2014. Sales rose 121% to 57,487 MT, led by a tripling of volume to the Middle East/North Africa (MENA), but also supported by strong gains in many key markets, including Canada, China, Southeast Asia, South Korea and Australia.
- Total U.S. exports to the MENA region soared in 2021 across product categories: butterfat +154%, cheese +39%, NFDM/SMP +51% and whey products +20%.
- U.S. whey exports grew 10% to 613,944 MT in 2021, driven primarily by China, which accounted for 44% of total whey volume. U.S. whey sales to China rose by nearly 50,000 MT, as the nation rebuilt its pig herd from African Swine Fever in the first half of the year. Chinese purchasing decline sharply in the second half, as pork prices plummeted and herd expansion efforts halted. Vietnam, South Korea and Mexico recorded strong double-digit increases as well.
- Southeast Asia remained the second-largest U.S. market in value terms, with the U.S. shipping nearly $1.4 billion worth of products to the region (an increase of 11% over the previous year). However, the region was the hardest hit by delays and cancellations caused by U.S. supply chain issues. That resulted in fairly flat volume performance overall, although Southeast Asia still accounted for 36% of U.S. NFDM/SMP exports, running a close second to Mexico.