Dairy exports from the US topped $1 billion (€878m) in 2002, according to the US Dairy Export Council (USDEC). This is the third year in a row that exports have exceeded the $1 billion figure.
The council believes that one reason for the continuing success of dairy exports is the fact that two of its most expensive dairy products, cheese and whey, did very well last year. Whey protein exports grew by 6 per cent, and sales of dry sweet whey also increased.
Whey protein concentrates are also increasingly being used in the nutraceutical industry and in the manufacture of sports performance products.
In addition, cheese sales were very strong in Japan and Southeast Asia and there was also increased interest in American cheese from the Caribbean market. The council believes that the significant tourist industry in the region is increasingly looking to the US dairy industry to supply much of its food.
Commercial unsubsidised sales made up 84 per cent of US dairy exports last year, and for the fourth consecutive year, exports accounted for more than 5 percent of total US milk production.
It has not been all good news, however. Lactose exports were down 7 per cent and ice cream declined by 8 per cent, despite a 74 per cent increase in shipments to Mexico and a 7 per cent gain to Europe.
Export sales of non-fat dry milk fell by 9 per cent last year, though this largely reflects the state of the global dry milk market. The two largest markets for skimmed milk powder - Mexico and Southeast Asia - were both down 20 per cent last year.