UK dairy trade balance

Updated 4 March 2020

How do UK imports and exports compare for key dairy products? This information shows the net trade position for dairy products in both value and volume terms on an annual basis.  


  • The UK recorded a trade surplus in volume terms for total dairy in 2019. This is the first surplus on record (records go back to 1997).
  • Some of the largest improvements in trade balance came from skim milk and buttermilk, which both saw a notable drop in imports.
  • The UK usually has a trade deficit for all its key dairy products, with the exception of milk powders. In 2019, there was also a trade surplus in cream
  • The shift in the cream trade balance from a deficit to a surplus came from both higher exports and lower imports. A year of strong milk production and high butterfat levels supported this.
  • There was a further reduction of the trade deficit in butter, driven both by lower imports and higher exports.
  • Milk powders saw lower imports and higher exports, improving the net trade position in 2019. Exports of SMP saw particularly good growth.
  • The yoghurt trade deficit worsened compared to 2018, with a large increase in imports and only a small increase in exports.
  • In value terms, there was still a trade deficit, but it was smaller than in 2018. The value of exports grew, while the value of imports shrunk.
  • Butter (including dairy fats) was a notable contributor to the improvement in the value trade deficit. This is partly because we imported less in 2019, but also because lower prices meant the volume deficit was worth less overall.

Additional information

The trade balance is calculated as exports minus imports.

Total dairy imports and exports (All dairy) includes dairy products which are not reported here.  The total will therefore differ from from the sum of the reported categories.

Butter here refers to the total 0405 category which includes other fats and oil derived from milk. 

For descriptions of the product categories please see the notes section of the downloadable spreadsheet.

UK fat and protein trade balance

Updated 9 July 2020

The UK dairy trade balance differs by product, each of which use a different amount of the fats and proteins available from milk production. The tables below show the trade balance for the UK in terms of fat and protein on an annual basis. 


  • In 2019, from a fat perspective the UK was 89% self-sufficient, whereas for protein the self-sufficiency level was 93%.
  • In both cases, cheese imports are the biggest contributor to the lack of self-sufficiency. In fact, without the net imports of ‘Other cheeses’, the UK would be self-sufficient in protein and fat.
  • The trade deficit in portein shrank considerably between 2018 and 2019, largely driven by an uplift in SMP and skim concentrate exports. Read more in our article here
  • As we move towards a potentially new trading landscape, how dairy products inter-relate will become even more important. Understanding how a change in trading conditions for one product will have potential knock-on implications for another, can help us determine how prices may move. After all, the value of each component will ultimately set the value of raw milk in the country.

Additional information

The net trade balance is exports minus imports, based on the typical butterfat and protein levels in products traded in the year.

Download dataset

UK dairy trade balance