Milk, also known as dairy or cream, is an internationally traded agricultural product. According to MIT’s Observatory of Economic Complexity, during 2016, the global trade of milk had an aggregate value between US$6.5 and US$6.9 billion. Simultaneously, the bulk of international trade of milk took place within countries and markets of the European Union. In 2016, Germany exported a total of US$1.3 billion worth of milk, France exported US$685 million, the Netherlands exported US$659 million, and the United States exported US$88 million. Meanwhile, that same year, Germany imported US$1.1 billion worth of milk, Italy imported US$763 million, Belgium imported US$701 million, and China imported US$604 million.
In terms of fermented milk products, the bulk of international trade activity also takes place in Europe. During 2016, the aggregate global of fermented milk products totaled between US$3.4 and US$3.6 billion. That year, the top exporters of fermented milk products were Germany with US$876 million, France accounting for US$603 million, and Belgium with US$265 million. Likewise, also during 2016, the world’s top importers of fermented milk products were the United Kingdom representing US$518 million, Italy with US$365 million worth of imports, and Spain totaling US$236 million.
International Milk Trade and National Markets
Similarly, alternatives to conventional milk and its derivate products are also consumed in niche markets throughout the world. One of the most popular alternatives to traditional whole milk is skim milk, which has high contents of muscle-building proteins and almost no saturated fat. Likewise, another traditional milk alternative is almond milk, which tends to have a neutral taste and can be consumed with both sweet and savory meals. Another option to traditional milk is coconut milk, which tends to be sweet, but has a higher saturated fat content. Moreover, other alternatives to traditional milk are fat free milk, vanilla almond milk, and flax milk.
In the specific case of New Zealand, which is a major milk product producer, the country is expected to produce 21.4 million metric tons of conventional milk during 2018. This projection represents a very similar total to the amount produced in 2017. Furthermore, the most recent national head of cattle count estimated some 4.9 million milk-producing cows in the country. Simultaneously, the total amount of land devoted to dairy farming in New Zealand has increased from almost 1.1 million hectares in 1993 to more than 1.7 million hectares in 2017.
In terms of trade, New Zealand is the world’s 44th largest export economy. During 2016, the country imported US$35.7 billion worth of goods and exported US$32.5 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of US$3.2 billion. Furthermore, New Zealand’s main export, representing 12% or US$4 billion of the country’s total in 2016, was concentrated milk. Similarly, the country’s main import that same year, representing 9.4% or US$3.4 billion of all international purchases, were cars. Meanwhile, New Zealand’s main trading partners are China, Australia, the United States, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore.