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New Zealand invests in sheep milk industry

Staff Writer |
The New Zealand government is investing in sheep milk research with the aim of building new export markets, particularly in Asia.

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Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said the government had agreed a six-year partnership between the privately-run Spring Sheep Milk Co. and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) with a value of 31.4 million NZ dollars ($22.98 million).

"It will involve new genetics, new farming systems and developing high premium niche products. New Zealand operators will be involved in all parts of the value chain," Guy said in a statement.

"There is increasing demand for sheep milk products, particularly in Asia, where many people are intolerant to cow's milk. We have a massive opportunity to tap into this market, and further position New Zealand as a producer of premium products," he said.

"The program is expected to generate annual revenues of at least 200 million NZ dollars ($146.38 million) by 2030 from sheep milk and new, high-value related products like ice-cream. This return could be as high as 700 million NZ dollars ($512.33 million) if the program hits its aspirational targets."

The global sheep milk industry was estimated to be worth 6.5 billion NZ dollars ($4.75 billion) and was growing strongly.

MPI would be investing 40 percent of the value of the program, which would allow open access to improved dairy sheep genetics and knowledge.

Spring Sheep Milk Co. chief executive Scottie Chapman said Asian consumers liked the nutritional value, flavor and digestibility of sheep milk.

To achieve a sheep milk industry delivering domestic and export returns at the upper target, New Zealand would need up to 55 farms managed by farmers with specific sheep milking expertise, Chapman said in a statement.

"The current farming model in New Zealand won't achieve this, which is why this joint investment between ourselves and MPI is so critical," he said.

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