The big threat to Fonterra – and the milk-dependent New Zealand economy – could be coming not from Chinese investment in New Zealand dairy farms, but from the Middle East.
Alf sounds this warning on learning that health-conscious shoppers in Britain could soon be buying camel’s milk.
According to the Telegraph, a Middle East firm is seeking permission to sell the product in Britain for the first time.
Camel milk is already consumed in the Middle East, parts of Africa and India.
It tastes salty, comes from an ill-tempered and malodorous animal and is unlikely to improve a bowl of cornflakes.
But camel’s milk could be the latest superfood to hit shop shelves as producers seek permission to sell it in Britain for the first time.
The product is said to be high in Vitamin C and low in fat, and is more digestible than cow’s milk and suitable for the lactose-intolerant.
One thing in Fonterra’s favour is the likely volume.
There are only a handful of camel milk firms in the world because the desert animals produce only 13 pints a day compared to more than 50 that can be gained from cows.
Regulatory obstacles obviously are being overcome, because the European Commission has provisionally approved plans by two Middle Eastern camel farms to export the milk to Britain.
United Arab Emirates-based firm Camelicious says it is only waiting on checks by EU health and hygiene inspectors and hopes to begin exports to Europe next year.
Mutasher Al-Badry, deputy general manager of the company, said: “It is a niche market.
“We don’t expect to compete with cow’s milk but we know there are lots of people who want to enjoy the health benefits of camel milk and we are confident that the EU will give us approval.”
He said he was in talks with health food and speciality stores, including Harrods, about future sales of the product, which is already consumed in the Middle East, parts of Africa and India.
Comparative data are worth noting.
On the production side, Camelicious produces 5,000 litres a day, less than even one per cent of Europe’s daily milk consumption.
On the nutrition side, camel’s milk is about two per cent fat, compared to four per cent in cow’s milk, is lower in cholesterol and has five times as much Vitamin C.
Studies in India showed it also contains high levels of insulin and helped sufferers of Type 2 diabetes by reducing their reliance on injections.
However, it is watery compared to cow’s milk and is said to taste salty.
A report in The Independent gives us a bit more.
Camel milk is currently used in a variety of products – antibacterial soap, yogurt, cheese, ice cream and even camel-milk chocolate (made in Vienna with powdered camel-milk from Dubai and exported to the Middle East).
Alf has eaten Dromedary dates, but has never drunk camel milk. But then, he doesn’t drink much cow’s milk either.