Higher in Vitamin C and protein, and lower in cholesterol and fat, but would you forgo cows’ milk for camels’ milk? According to data released this month, people around the world are making the change.
In 2018, the global camel milk market was worth US$5.64 billion having grown 5.64% from 2011. It’s estimated that this growth will increase to 8.01% by 2024, to a value of more than US$8 billion despite the fact that it’s almost 12 times as expensive than it’s cow counterpart.
And Australia is enjoying its slice of the pie. This year, the domestic industry will produce 180,000 litres of milk, up from 50,000 just three years ago. Growth is expected to continue with AgriFutures Australia predicting that the industry will ‘see a major increase in Australian camel milk production’ over the next three years. Existing suppliers are expanding, and several new large scale operators have recently joined the market, with one dairy – Australian Camel Dairies in the Perth Hills increasing from 4 to 300 milkers in 2014.
Domestically, camels milk is attracting customers including Somalian and Ethiopian immigrants, as well as consumers motivated by its various health benefits. Research has shown a positive impact on children with autism, ADD and ADHD, and those with a lactose intolerance, diabetes and Chrone’s disease to name just a few. It’s status as a superfood is a major marketing strength for the commodity, which is sold in pasteurised and unpasteurised formats, organic milk as well as a range of processed products such as cheese, cream and ice cream. Camels’ milk is also processed into a powdered milk for infant formula and a host of other products such as soap and cosmetics.
As well as local demand, Australia’s camel milk suppliers are receiving significant interest from overseas. The industry has supplied fresh milk to New Zealand and Singapore with interest from customers in the US, Middle East, India and the UK. Another strength for the Australian industry is its clean image – particularly the disease Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus, to which Middle Eastern herds are prone. The virus can spread from camels to humans, and is potentially fatal.
One of the main players in the Australian camel milk industry is Megan Williams, who started a dairy with just three camels in 2014. Within five years, their business – The Camel Milk Co Australia – had to be relocated to a much larger property to accommodate a her of more than 300 camels – 60 of which are regularly milked.
The farm produces around 6 litres of milk per day, a third of which is exported in both to liquid and powder forms. Export partners currently include buyers in Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia, with New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong soon to be added to the list.
“We’re probably doing a couple of hundred litres for export each week, but with Thailand coming on board, that’s set to really increase,” says Megan.
“More often than not, we are approached by international buyers and their markets. One thing Australia has over any other country in the world is our camels are disease-free.”
As well as the standard milk products, Megan’s company has branched out into boutique style cosmetics including soap, hand wash and creams with camel milk shampoo and conditioner soon to be added to their offerings in order to keep up with consumer demand.
“Every week we get a new contact or a new inquiry, and it just keeps growing.”