Steffen Rode (photo), Managing Director Lactoprot Germany, spoke at the Berlin Milk Forum on 8 April on the topic of “Import giant China – are the trends holding? China bought the world market dry in 2021, dairy imports rose by 25% to 939,000 tons (the increase for China was equivalent to Japan’s entire import volume). The country is the world’s top importer of VMP, SMP, WPC80, infant food, whey powder, butter/AMF, lactose and liquid milk products. In cheese, China ranks 5th and is expected to move up to 4th this year (Rode: “It’s going to become a huge cheese market!”).
This year, however, the Chinese market is under pressure: the economy is not doing well, consumers are saving and prices are set to rise in the second half of the year. As a result, Rabobank forecasts a 26% drop in imports in the first half of the year and 37% in the second half, which could mean 250,000 tons less VMP and 130,000 tons less SMP imports. This situation is complicated by the lifting of tariffs at the end of the year, so China’s imports will be delayed.
China gets two-thirds of its dairy imports from New Zealand, where milk production is stagnating, however. According to Rode, it is foreseeable that NZ will no longer be able to deliver in full in the long term. Therefore, China will demand more goods in the USA and Europe and, in parallel, Chinese dairies will take over producers abroad. Rode sees a special niche for EU dairies in the area of cream products.