International market overview

Docklands reflections

Over recent decades Australian milk production has been well above the volume required for domestic consumption, creating marketable surplus destined for export markets. The share of total production exported has ranged from around 30–60% over the period shown below. Over recent years Australia has exported closer to 30% of its milk production – the lowest proportion since the mid-1990s, with the combination of a declining milk production base, and a larger domestic market due to population growth
resulting in less milk available for export.


Although Australia accounts for less than 2% of the world’s estimated milk production, it is a significant exporter of dairy products. Australia currently ranks fourth in terms of world dairy trade – with a 6% share – behind New Zealand, the European Union as a bloc and the United States.


Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Macau) is now Australia’s largest market, accounting for 22% of exports by volume. Japan remains a vital trade partner for Australian exporters, as a mature, high-value market with long-established business relationships. Australian exports are overwhelmingly concentrated in Asia, which accounted for 80% of the total dairy export value of almost $3 billion in 2015/16.

This concentration of exports in Asia reflects both Australia’s geographic proximity to these markets and the extent to which Australia has been excluded from other major markets by direct restrictions (as in the case of the European Union) or the impact of the export subsidy programs of major competitor countries.

Asian markets have considerable potential for consumption growth as incomes rise and diets become more ‘westernised.’ Australian dairy companies have proven track records in supplying these markets over a number of decades.

Australia’s top five export markets by value in 2015/16 were Greater China, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. The top five by volume differed only slightly by order: Greater China, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The fastest growing export markets for Australia in the last five years have been Greater China and Malaysia.