Australia produced 344,000 tonnes of cheese in 2015/16 – virtually unchanged from last year. Production volumes were significantly less than early in the 2000s as milk production has declined since that time. Another significant factor in more recent years, as milk production has stabilised at lower levels, has been the impact of dairy companies opportunistically changing their export product mixes to take advantage of favourable movements in international dairy commodity prices. 

Cheese is a major product for the Australian dairy industry, with sales of around 260,000 tonnes of domestic product within Australia, for an estimated value approaching A$1.85 billion; and export sales of a further 171,000 tonnes, worth A$855 million in 2015/16. 

There has been a long-term trend in production away from cheddar cheeses and toward non-cheddar cheese types. The non-cheddar share of total production volumes has steadily increased from 30% three decades ago, to between 45% and 50% in recent years.

Australian cheese production by type of cheese (tonnes)

  2010/11 2011/12 2012/13
2013/14 (r)
2014/15 (r)
2015/16 (p)
Cheddar 154,720 160,683  157,996   151,721 178,836
Semi Hard 68,176 67,023 57,190   44,749 43,938
Hard Grating 13,591 13,871 14,681   13,762 9,885
Fresh  95,431 99,024  102,342   95,764 104,992
Mould 6,739 5,930 6,103  5,504 6,491
Total Cheese 338,657 346,530  338,312   311,500 344,142
Source: Dairy manufacturers

It is estimated that nearly 45% of the domestic sales of Australian cheese are through the major supermarket chains. Consequently, a significant proportion − of predominantly specialty cheeses − are sold through the smaller independent retail trade made up of delicatessens and specialty food stores. The remainder is used in the food service sector and in food processing applications.

Total cheese sales volumes through the supermarket channel grew by around 2.0% in 2015/16. However,
average retail prices decreased by 1.7% on the previous year, so that the total value of retail sales through the supermarket channel remained more-or-less unchanged, at slightly more than $2.1 billion. 

See Domestic Sales Summary for more details on supermarket sales of cheese