The U.S. Dairy Export Council this week reports a projected 25% increase in the value of dairy exports – a total of $6.5 billion.
If realized, the USDEC expects 2013 to mark a fourth-consecutive record year for dairy exports, barring any dramatic changes.
USDEC President Tom Suber attributed the increase to suppliers and traders, who he said are showing more ambition, commitment and capability to pursue export markets.
Speaking to more than 140 attendees at USDEC's annual board and membership meeting in Chicago Tuesday, Suber said U.S. exporters have capitalized in 2013 on reduced supply from other countries, steady global dairy demand and favorable pricing. More than 15% of U.S. milk production now goes to exports.
"Reliance upon exports is not just an aspiration in our industry, it's a reality," Suber said. "Looking ahead, the reality is that exports must not just continue, but continue to grow. Put another way, exports must grow or our industry largely stagnates."
In a separate address, Tim Hunt, global dairy strategist for Rabobank, said a global shortage of dairy products is expected to continue, driving more growth for U.S. exports in 2014.
"In the next six months, the United States is likely to be the region with the most additional supply available to grow exports," Hunt told USDEC members. "In addition, the United States looks to be entering a period of enhanced competitiveness."
Meanwhile, key buyers, most notably China, are looking to diversify their supply, which is why Hunt suggested that the time is now to pursue export development.
Yale economist Jeffrey Garten also addressed the crowd, predicting "a third industrial revolution, led by the United States," which will benefit from increasing energy independence, innovative public-private partnerships and technological prowess.
Garten is a former undersecretary of commerce for international trade in the Clinton administration.
"It's a world of complexity, of big change, where there are lots and lots of risks and unknowns," he said. "But as your industry has shown, it's a world where those who are strategic and understand the risks can do extremely well."