China’s Dairy Imports Slow
April 21, 2022
China’s milk powder imports slowed seasonally in March. China imported 128.1 million pounds of whole milk powder (WMP) last month, 30% less than the unusually high shipments it received in March 2021. Despite this deficit, China imported more WMP in first-quarter 2022 than in any three-month period on record, thanks to an extremely strong showing in January 2022.
China’s imports of skim milk powder (SMP) dropped to 50.7 million pounds, a healthy volume compared to the typical March, but 27% less than the prior year. Similarly, while China’s first-quarter SMP imports were robust compared to most years, they fell 16.5% short of volumes imported in the first three months of 2021. After record-setting milk powder imports in 2021, it’s difficult to decipher whether the slowdown is the result of plentiful stocks, issues at Chinese ports, or a sign of slackening demand.
Chinese imports of most other dairy products fell short of last year’s impressive pace. China imported just half as much whey in March as it did a year earlier. Poor margins in China’s hog sector weighed heavily on Chinese whey consumption, which is down 47% year to date through March. China imported 131 million pounds of ultra-high temperature fresh milk, 35% less than in March 2021. Cheese imports fell 21.6% year over year to 35.1 million pounds. Butter imports bucked the trend, topping 27.5 million pounds and establishing a new high for the month. China’s first-quarter butter imports were 2% higher than the same period a year ago.