By Boyd Champness

AUSTRALIAN dairy exports have broken through the A$2 billion (£780m) barrier, despite the Asian crisis.

Exports have tripled since 1990, when A$631 million worth of butter, milk powders and cheese were shipped from Australian shores.

Speaking to The Weekly Times, Australian Dairy Corporation international planning manager Phillip Goode said this represented an annual growth rate of 15%.

The volume of last years exports increased by 11% despite the onslaught of the Asian crisis. This was made possible by the depreciation of the Australian dollar, he said.

In places like South Korea, one of the countries hit hardest by the crisis, Australian exporters managed to hold on to their market volumes and, in some cases, increase market share.

“In Korea, our volume was down slightly at a time when the market size was contracting, so it meant our total market share increased substantially,” Mr Goode told the paper.

The Japanese market has been the ADCs greatest success, with growth in the cheese market outstripping expectations to reach 70,000 tonnes.

“We are the number one exporter of cheese to Japan, with about a third of that market,” he said.

But while Mr Goode trumpeted the ADCs successes, Canberras economic gurus are predicting a five-year slump in international manufacturing milk prices.

The Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resources Economics believes milk prices will fall in real terms from 24.9A¢/litre to 20.7A¢/litre (8ppl) by 2003-04.