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US dairy exports break records in 2022, top $9.5 billion

U.S. dairy exports set a record for both value and volume in 2022, thanks, in part, to innovation, an expert said.

The value of U.S. dairy exports in 2022 exceeded 2021 figures by 25%, breaking dairy exports records, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

In 2022, U.S. dairy exports were valued at $9.5 billion, compared to $7.6 billion in 2021, the data show. Similarly, dairy exports logged 2.82 million metric tons of volume in 2022, compared to 2.67 metric tons in 2021.

According to Becky Rasdall, VP of trade policy and international affairs, International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), the increase in U.S. dairy exports is driven by a number of factors, including increased global demand for dairy products.

“Consumer demand globally, especially for cheese, has increased,” she explained.

Also affecting dairy exports is a decrease in milk production in some dairy producing markets.

“... Milk production levels in certain major dairy producing markets have decreased,” she said. “The U.S. has excess production and exports are a great demand opportunity for that excess supply.”

Importantly, innovation in the dairy category is a key contributor to growing global demand for U.S. dairy.

“Innovation is a major component of export growth throughout the dairy supply chain,” Rasdall explained.  “Whether it’s innovative approaches to cheese consistencies and qualities, or innovative thinking about maximizing supply chain efficiencies, each of these steps along the way support U.S. exports. Our industry, in fact, places so much emphasis on innovation that we are the world’s only supplier of certain unique dairy ingredients that are critical in nutritional products, which also drives exports.”

The U.S. is the third-largest exporter of dairy products worldwide, behind the EU and New Zealand.

“The U.S., however, has only really started exporting over the last 20 years or so, making the exponential growth all the more impressive,” Rasdall said.

Over the past 10 years, U.S. dairy exports have increased in volume by 52% and in value by a whopping 85%, per the USDA data.

“The U.S. dairy industry now exports approximately 18% of all milk production,” Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO, IDFA, said in response to USDA’s data. “The totals are striking because the market for U.S. dairy products was almost entirely domestic just three decades ago.”

Export volumes to the top four dairy markets—Mexico, Canada, China and Philippines—all hit record levels, he explained.

To keep dairy exports in a position of growth, Rasdall emphasized the need for free trade agreements similar to those of competing exporters like the EU.

“The U.S. has a handful of tariff-reducing agreements with other countries compared to the EU, and those higher tariffs serve as major barriers to our export growth being even greater, particularly in food insecure markets in Africa and the Middle East, where European exporters have a natural geographical advantage,” she said.

Rachel Adams joined Informa’s Health & Nutrition Network in 2013. Her career in the natural products industry started with a food and beverage focus before transitioning into her role as managing editor of Natural Products INSIDER, where she covered the dietary supplement industry. Adams left Informa Markets in 2019.

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