Dairy exports

Exports of British dairy products were worth almost £1.9 billion in 2022. 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.

In recent years, annual exports have exceeded one million tonnes, with milk and cream the largest component.

However, cheese is one of the most valuable UK food and drink exports. The commodity recently ranked third, behind whisky and chocolate.

Our key export markets are Europe and North America, with 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 almost 180Mt in 2022, up 15% on 2021. In value terms, these were worth £785m in 2022, up 39% on 2021, with the majority (80%) heading to the EU.

Compared to 2021, cheese shipments to non-EU markets decreased by 3.6% in 2022, mainly due to reduced demand in China and Hong Kong. Demand remains steady in North America, with exports about 35Mt per annum.

Data source: HMRC

Milk powders

WMP and 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.

Data source: HMRC

Butter and cream

UK butter exports are often driven by overall milk production levels and the need to balance fat stocks within the UK.

Compared to 2021, total butter exports were down by about 3% on volume in 2022 (52,672 tonnes). However, over the same period, total export value increased by 27% to about £276m.

Almost all UK cream exports (99%) went to the EU in 2022, worth £221m.

Data source: HMRC

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