Camel milk – fad or trend?

For dairy consuming Westerners, the word milk, without any specification, is automatically linked to cows. This is not always the case in other regions of the world, including most parts of China. Goat raising regions produce goat milk, which is also quite familiar in Europe. However, Mongolians also drink horse milk, usually fermented. A few regions commercially process donkey milk. The latter two are available in China, but on a very small scale. One type of non-bovine milk that seems to be catching on in China is camel milk.

Decrease and increase

According to the latest available statistics, 338,400 camels were being raised in China at the end of 2018, up from 242,800 in 2011. In fact, the number of camels was 640,000 in 1981, but the number started decreasing as fewer and fewer camels were used for transportation. The recent rise is due to the new interested in camel milk. Almost 90% of the camels in China live in Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia.

Milking camels

A camel typically produces 1.2 mt of milk p.a. compared to 8 – 9 mt of a Holstein cow. That makes camels rather inefficient milk producers. The following table shows the historic development of camel milk output in China

Year Output (mt)
2014 14,100
2015 13,800
2016 14,000
2017 14,600
2018 15,200

In 2018, Xinjiang was the largest production region with 52.94%, followed by Inner Mongolia with 26%.

Pricing

The purchasing price of raw camel milk increased considerably during the same period.

Year Price (RMB/kg)
2014 30
2015 32
2016 35
2017 42
2018 48

Nutrition

Camel milk is high in: calcium, iron, and vitamins B and C. It is therefore thought to be good for preventing osteoporosis. It also contains fair amounts of lysozyme, lactoferrin and immunoglobulin.

Prospects

Insiders expect that the Chinese demand for camel milk will increase steadily during the coming years. The value of the market was RMB 974 mln in 2019, but is expect to increase to RMB 2.228 billion by 2024. Online supermarket Tmall has reported a turnover of camel milk powder of RMB 81.83 mln per month in 2020; 40 times the amount in 2019.

Products

A number of commercial camel milk products are available in China. In this post, I am introducing Tuoneng. The pictures respectively show the canned milk and the packaging line.

Eurasia Consult Food knows the Chinese food industry since 1985. Follow us on Twitter.

Eurasia Consult Consulting can help you embed your business in Chinese society.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation.

2 thoughts on “Camel milk – fad or trend?

    • Glad to see that this post is arousing interest. There are more camel milk products available in China, including milk powder.

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