Dairy exports

Exports of British Dairy products are worth over £1.6 billion. Exports are an important part of the UK dairy market, with many businesses operating detailed long-term export strategies to increase their share of trade outside the UK market. 

UK dairy processors export to over 135 countries worldwide, and in the last year, dairy exports were up 9%, outperforming all other areas of food and drink. Dairy products make up 15% of all food exports, with cheese being the third best food category.

Our key export markets are Europe and North America, with Asia and the Middle East showing rapid growth. We participate in many shows around the world and organise inward and outward missions to promote British dairy products. The focus is on added-value products, like cheese, cream, butter, skimmed milk powder (SMP) and whole milk powder (WMP), from the commodity products right up to the premium, artisan products.

The UK has a wealth of resources available to develop exports of dairy products, including a large and varied processing sector, strong traditions and a wide range of products, some of them highly innovative.


Export update: Understanding Dairy Export Opportunities: United Arab Emirates

Recorded in September 2020, this webinar provides valuable insight into the opportunities in the UAE. You will learn:

  • How the UK is viewed as a food supplier
  • The significance of tariffs for UK exporters?
  • What companies need to do to increase dairy exports

Click here to watch the webinar.

Download the webinar slides

Export update: Understanding Dairy Export Opportunities: Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait

Recorded in September 2020, the second part of Middle East Week, explores the export opportunities in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait. You will learn:

  • The profiles and market information for each country
  • The work being delivered by AHDB to support dairy exports in these key targets
  • An overview of how foodservice and retail is delivered
  • Information on consumer buying trends

Click here to watch the webinar.

Download the webinar slides


Total UK cheese exports were 190Mt in 2018, up 11% on 2017. In value terms, these were worth £670m, up 10% on 2018, with the majority heading to the EU with 76% of the market. Cheese shipments to non-EU markets have grown by 7%, due to increased demand in Asia and steady demand in North America.

So far this year, mozzarella has seen the largest growth in year-to-date export volumes, shipping 62% more between January and September than last year. Cheddar has also seen growth over this period, exporting 7% more volume (4,690 tonnes). 

Trade Data: Cheese

Milk powders

WMP & SMP exports to EU markets total 40Mt. Much higher prices are commanded in Asia, where we export 11Mt, with a £44m value, compared with the EU value of £52m.

Historically, SMP has been the go-to product for dealing with excess milk production, over and above domestic requirements. As such, SMP exports have been linked to the need to balance stocks in the UK rather than being a specific export-focused approach.

Butter and cream

UK butter exports are often driven by overall milk production levels and the need to balance fat stocks within the UK. Total butter exports are up by 14% on volume and 42% on value (due to increased prices) on 2017, with a total export value of over £270m and volume of  62Mt.

Over 95% of total cream exports, worth £71m value, go to the EU, with a very small amount heading further afield.

Trade Data: Butter

Guidance on exporting

To find out more about becoming an exporter, here are some links which provide detailed information on health certification and country guidance notes:

Export food, drink and agricultural products