Developed market demand for camel milk products looks set to help drive the export ambitions of the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) largest milk producer in coming years.
April Dawn Hobbs, PR manager at Al Ain Dairy, told DairyReporter.com that the firm intends to move into the exports market in coming years to meet demand from as far afield as the US, Canada and the European Union (EU).
Hobbs added, however, that the firm would continue to concentrate on Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, until it is able to meet this larger demand.
The company has announced plans to invest $135m over the next two and a half years. The investment will facilitate the development of new dairy facilities and infrastructure and see the firm’s cattle count essentially double through an increase by 7,000.
This follows an earlier investment of between $35m and $40m in its camel milk segment, which includes flavoured camel milk and camel milk ice cream.
The firm, which was established in 1981 under a directive from the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nayhan, has recently recorded 18% growth year-on-year.
“The dairy industry is extremely competitive here, especially when you consider that we have tonnes of challenges - we are in the desert and we have the issue of water. Despite that, we have a business that is totally thriving,” said Hobbs.
“We are the grip of a massive expansion plan, which once completed will triple our operations.”
“We are eyeing exports, there is strong potential for exports. We are going for it, we are definitely going for it.”
According to Hobbs, the firm has received requests for its products from around the world, with global demand for camel milk products increasing significantly over the last 18 months.
“There is demand for camel milk for two main reasons. Firstly, the whole novelty value – people are curious about the product. But people are also intrigued by the nutritional attributes of camel milk. It contains significantly lower levels of fat than cow’s milk.”
Camel milk demand
The product, which has been shown to effectively reduce cholesterol and the risk of diabetes, has been the subject of a significant investment by Al Ain.
“We have already made significant investments in camel milk and camel milk products. We will be the first to produce camel milk ice cream for the local market. There is a definite potential for export,” added Hobbs.
“But there is a massive challenge in supply. Demand far exceeds supply. Camels are different; they produce significantly less milk than cow’s do.”
“In recent years we have been approached about entering new markets. But to be honest, we haven’t been ready. We want to be able to supply the domestic market before we move into exports.”
“Before we get carried away, we need to satisfy local demand,” Hobbs concluded.