Did you know that Australia imported dairy products, equivalent to 23% of all milk produced last year?

Australia is promoted as an export nation when dairy is discussed, and its true, about 30% of the milk produced is exported as cheese, butter, skim milk powder and whole milk powder.

I have been watching / monitoring the Australian dairy industry for more than 20 years, and that is after working in the industry for 25 years. I like how the US Dairy Export Council presents their figures and have copied their format for Australian production, imports, consumption and exports. I calculated these figures based on “milk solids” paid for – noting that farmers don’t get paid for water, lactose and milk minerals.

Australia is touted as an Export nation, but is also an IMPORT nation – and by using the same calculation formulas – Last year, Australia imported the equivalent of 23.1% of milk produced compared with 31% of its milk exported.

I have checked with statisticians in the USA and they use a similar calculation, which is regularly published by the US Dairy Export council.  


What is interesting to compare is that the USA is consistantly importing about 4% of its milk production volume as specialist products – mainly from Europe and Exports about 16% of its milk as dairy products.

US, Exports and Imports as a % of milk production. Source US Dairy Export Council Dashboard

When looking at last years Trade map information – which uses sales value data, we can see that Australia has increased both its imports of Butter and milk products.


Imports of milk and butter are growing. Cheese is the largest traded product

(Search for dairy (HS code 04))

There are many ways of looking at this as milk is turned into many different products and mixes. I calculated it another way, using Australian Bureau of Statistics data provided by Dairy Australia. This time I looked at Australia’s dairy Fat and Protein Balance. This shows that Australia is not totally self sufficient in dairy fat and has an excess of dairy protein.

Australia’s dairy fat balance in 2019

Australia’s dairy protein balance in 2019

Are these statistics used in the long-term strategy for the Australian dairy industry? I wonder why they are not highlighted?


  1. Avatar for Bernie Ferguson Bernie Ferguson on June 12, 2022 at 2:50 pm

    As a dairy farmer I have an interest in your stats. I have maintained that since deregulation Australia is not self sufficient in dairy. What you have not included is what comes into Australia in processed food. If that were included I’m pretty sure we would be deemed net importers.

  2. Avatar for Bernie Ferguson Bernie Ferguson on February 19, 2023 at 4:02 pm

    Thank you for the simple and clear graphs. We are dairy farmers in central Gippsland Victoria. I have suspected that Australia has been a net importer of dairy for some years. The peak was 2012 at 12 billion litres and quickly dropping to 8+ billion litres shortly after.
    If your graph does not include dairy in imported processed foods, I would guess that Australia is a net importer of dairy

  3. Avatar for Andrew Weinert Andrew Weinert on February 19, 2023 at 9:48 pm

    Thanks Bernie, things like imported chocolate, and other manufactured products are not included. I have not updated the figures for a couple of years now. Most of the imports are butter and cheese from NZ and cheese from the USA. They send it to the likes of Dominos Pizza Consumers don’t know that as the origin of ingredients for things like Pizza dont need to be declared.

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