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2015 was a challenging year for the global dairy industry, as a significant oversupply of milk collided with economic and geopolitical issues in key markets. Chinese imports, which had been growing for several years, dropped off significantly in 2014 and 2015, as volume growth slowed and China’s own domestic production increased. Meanwhile, Russia’s ban on food imports from the West hit at the same time that production quotas were lifted in Europe, leaving countries with additional capacity and without an important market to sell to.

The challenges in Russia and China hit dairy producers in Europe and Australia/New Zealand particularly hard. Both regions counted on China being a strong export market, and Russia’s proximity to Europe made its loss particularly painful to European dairy farmers and manufacturers. US manufacturers did not play in either market in a significant way and suffered less, but now contend with heightened competition as manufacturers look for opportunities in a global market that has more milk supply than it needs.

Among the top five retail volume markets for milk, the industry saw no significant shifts from 2014 to 2015. India remains the largest milk producer in the world, with total milk volumes expected to reach almost 151.4 billion liters in 2015, according to Mintel estimates based on data from the National Dairy Development Board and Economist Intelligence Unit. It is only the third largest market for retail market volume, however, as the vast majority of milk in India does not make it to the formal market due to infrastructure challenges and a consumer desire for only the freshest milk.

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