Cheese Export, A Comprehensive Guide

Cheese Export, A Comprehensive Guide

How Cheese Exports Grew by 15.4%: A Comprehensive Guide

Cheese is one of the most popular and versatile dairy products in the world. It can be consumed as a snack, a topping, an ingredient, or a main course. Cheese is also a valuable commodity in international trade, as it represents 0.18% of total world trade. In this article, we will explore how cheese exports grew by 15.4% in 2021, reaching a record value of $38.5 billion. We will also look at the main cheese exporters and importers, the factors that influenced the cheese market, and the future prospects for cheese trade.

The Main Cheese Exporters and Importers

According to the World’s Top Exports website, the top 15 cheese exporters in 2021 were:

  • Germany: $6.2 billion (15.6% of total cheese exports)
  • Netherlands: $5.4 billion (13.7%)
  • Italy: $4.6 billion (11.7%)
  • France: $3.8 billion (9.5%)
  • United States: $2.29 billion (5.8%)
  • Denmark: $1.98 billion (5%)
  • New Zealand: $1.7 billion (4.2%)
  • Belgium: $1.42 billion (3.6%)
  • Ireland: $1.36 billion (3.4%)
  • Poland: $1.21 billion (3.1%)
  • United Kingdom: $922.3 million (2.3%)
  • Austria: $866.2 million (2.2%)
  • Greece: $805 million (2%)
  • Australia: $758 million (1.9%)
  • Switzerland: $739.6 million (1.9%)

These 15 countries accounted for 85.8% of global cheese exports in 2021. Among them, the fastest-growing cheese exporters since 2020 were the United States (up 27.1%), the United Kingdom (up 18.6%), the Netherlands (up 18.3%), and Germany (up 14.6%). The countries that posted declines in their cheese exports were Switzerland (down -7.1%), Australia (down -3%), and France (down -0.7%).

The top 15 cheese importers in 2021 were:

  • Germany: $5.32 billion (13% of total cheese imports)
  • United Kingdom: $4 billion (9.8%)
  • Italy: $2.59 billion (6.3%)
  • France: $2.69 billion (6.6%)
  • Japan: $2 billion (4.9%)
  • Netherlands: $1.79 billion (4.4%)
  • Spain: $1.66 billion (4%)
  • Belgium: $1.49 billion (3.6%)
  • Russia: $1.39 billion (3.4%)
  • United States: $1.64 billion (4%)
  • China: $1 billion (2.5%)
  • Canada: $0.99 billion (2.4%)
  • South Korea: $0.95 billion (2.3%)
  • Mexico: $0.86 billion (2.1%)
  • Saudi Arabia: $0.84 billion (2%)

These 15 countries accounted for 76% of global cheese imports in 2021. Among them, the fastest-growing cheese importers since 2020 were China (up 35%), Saudi Arabia (up 28%), Mexico (up 25%), and Russia
(up 24%). The countries that posted declines in their cheese imports were Japan (down -8%), Canada (down -7%), and Belgium (down -5%).

The Factors that Influenced the Cheese Market

The cheese market was affected by various factors in 2021, such as:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on consumer demand, food service, logistics, and trade policies.
  • The economic recovery of some major cheese markets, such as Mexico, China, and the United States, which boosted their cheese consumption and imports.
  • The flat or declining milk production of some major cheese exporters, such as New Zealand, the European Union, and Australia, which limited their exportable supplies of cheese.
  • The rising global prices of major dairy products, such as skimmed milk powder, cheese, whey and whey products, and butter, which made U.S.
    cheese more competitive in international markets.
  • The trade agreements and disputes that affected the cheese trade flows, such as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and the Brexit.

The Future Prospects for Cheese Trade

According to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, the outlook for U.S. dairy exports in 2022 is for lower exports both on a milk fat milk equivalent basis and a skimmed milk equivalent basis. This is due to the expected decline in U.S. milk output, the strong domestic demand, and the higher, less competitive export prices. However, over the longer term, U.S. dairy exports are expected to resume growing at prior growth rates and become an increasingly critical supplier to global dairy markets.

The global cheese market is also expected to face some challenges and opportunities in the future, such as:

  • The increasing demand for cheese in emerging markets, especially in Asia and Africa, where cheese consumption is still low but growing rapidly.
  • The diversification of cheese products and preferences, which creates opportunities for niche and specialty cheeses, such as organic, vegan, lactose-free, or ethnic cheeses.
  • The innovation and technology that enhance the quality, safety, shelf-life, and sustainability of cheese production and trade.
  • The environmental and social concerns that influence consumer choices and regulations regarding cheese production and consumption, such as animal welfare, greenhouse gas emissions, waste management, and fair trade.

Cheese Export: A Global Industry

Cheese is one of the most popular and widely consumed dairy products in the world. It is made from the coagulation of milk proteins, usually by adding rennet or other enzymes, and then draining and pressing the curds. Cheese can vary in texture, flavor, color and shape depending on the type of milk, the culture, the aging process and the additives used.

According to the World’s Top Exports website, cheese exports by all countries totaled US$39.7 billion in 2022, an increase of 23.4% since 2018. The top five cheese exporters by value were Germany, Netherlands, Italy, France and the United States, accounting for 56.2% of the global cheese exports. The European Union was the leading cheese producer in the world, with over 10 million metric tons of cheese manufactured in 2022.

Cheese Export: Trends and Opportunities

The global cheese market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.5% from 2018 to 2028, reaching a value of US$112.8 billion by 2028. The main drivers of this growth are the increasing demand for cheese in emerging markets, especially in Asia-Pacific and Latin America, the rising popularity of natural and organic cheese products, the innovation and diversification of cheese varieties and flavors, and the health benefits of cheese consumption.

Some of the key opportunities for cheese exporters are to tap into the growing markets of China, India, Brazil and Mexico, where cheese consumption is still low but increasing rapidly. According to the U.S. Dairy Export Council, China is expected to import 200 thousand metric tons of cheese by 2025, up from 108 thousand metric tons in 2019. India’s cheese market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 20.6% from 2020 to 2025. Brazil and Mexico are also among the top 10 cheese importers in the world.

Another opportunity for cheese exporters is to focus on premium and specialty cheese products, such as artisanal, organic, aged and flavored cheeses, that can cater to the changing preferences and tastes of consumers. These products can offer higher margins and differentiation for cheese exporters in a competitive market.

Cheese Export: Challenges and Strategies

The global cheese export industry also faces some challenges and risks, such as trade barriers, price volatility, environmental concerns and food safety issues. Some of the major trade barriers that affect cheese exports are tariffs, quotas, subsidies, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, geographical indications and technical barriers to trade. These barriers can limit market access, increase costs and reduce competitiveness for cheese exporters.

Price volatility is another challenge for cheese exporters, as cheese prices are influenced by various factors such as supply and demand, production costs, exchange rates, weather conditions and market speculation. Price volatility can affect the profitability and stability of cheese exporters and require them to adopt effective risk management strategies.

Environmental concerns are also becoming more important for cheese exporters, as consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of dairy production and consumption. Cheese production requires a large amount of water, land and energy resources, and generates greenhouse gas emissions and waste. Cheese exporters need to adopt sustainable practices and technologies to reduce their environmental footprint and meet consumer expectations.

Food safety is another critical issue for cheese exporters, as cheese products can be contaminated by pathogens, toxins or residues during production, processing or transportation. Food safety incidents can damage the reputation and trust of cheese exporters and lead to product recalls or bans. Cheese exporters need to comply with high standards of hygiene and quality control and ensure traceability and transparency throughout their supply chain.

To overcome these challenges and succeed in the global cheese export market, cheese exporters need to adopt some strategies such as:

  • Conducting market research and analysis to identify the best opportunities and niches for their products
  • Developing innovative and differentiated products that meet consumer needs and preferences
  • Building strong relationships with customers, distributors and partners in target markets
  • Leveraging trade agreements and organizations to gain market access and reduce trade barriers
  • Implementing effective pricing and hedging strategies to cope with price volatility
  • Adopting sustainable practices and technologies to reduce environmental impact
  • Ensuring food safety and quality throughout their supply chain
  • Promoting their products with effective marketing and branding strategies

Cheese export is a global industry that offers many opportunities but also faces many challenges. Cheese exporters need to be aware of the trends, opportunities, challenges and strategies in this industry to achieve success.


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