Camelids have always contributed to the rise of civilizations. For more than 4000 years, they have been the most privileged companions of men, transporting caravaneers of the Silk Roads and pilgrims going to Mecca. However, it was neglected during the 20th century with the mechanization and increase of settlements. It does not matter, a king of adaptation, its endless potential is reinventing itself today to develop new economies.
Camel’s milk: a promising industry
Because of its numerous health benefits, camel milk has been in growing demand in Gulf countries but also Europe and the United States. More digestible than cow’s milk, it is richer in vitamins and minerals and has anti-inflammatory as well as anti-allergenic virtues, which is ideal for both lactose intolerant and diabetic people. In the Emirates, and particularly in Dubai, intensive camel breeding similar to the cattle’s one already exists through modern dairy and pasteurized milk processing circuits. “Camel-ologist” Bernard Faye, a former veterinarian, now a consultant for the industry, advises on the identification of dairy breeds to increase the quantities produced “We witnessed two revolutions lastly. A revolution in camel farming: with more people settling down, the old nomads settled in the cities started to ask for this milk, which contributed to putting on the market this commodity that used to be considered by the farmers as a gift of God that should be offered to guests. And a technological revolution because we discovered how to preserve camel milk for long periods. Before the milk did not curd, but for 8-9 years, it has even been possible to make cheese which allowed to extend the life cycle of this milk”.
A flourishing industry
An estimated $ 10 billion industry in 2018 according to the Bloomberg economic website, which is also developing in Australia, where there is a large number of wild camels. The Australian company Good earth dairy decided to exploit this opportunity and to increase its capacity of 100 current camels to 3000 next year, in order to produce up to 10,000 liters of milk a day. In Dubai, for the past 35 years, Camélicious has been offering a series of products based on camel milk such as flavored milk, baby milk powder, shampoo or even “camelccino”.
Although this emerging market shows an uneven evolution across countries, the expert Bernard Faye sees it as a financial opportunity for nomads, which could also resolve malnutrition issues in Africa “the beginning of this dairy industry is a real opportunity for nomads. With climate change and pressure of economic globalization, valuing the milk of their animals has real economic potential. In Chad, for example, around N’djamena 20 years ago there were no camels. Only cows and sheep. During the dry season, the Bedouins were taking refuge around Lake Chad, but today with the political instability and Boko Haram as well as the drought, they can’t anymore. Camel herds help to secure a constant production and today 10,000 camels are enough to feed the city. “
Camel Racing in Gulf countries: a race to the good breed
The quality of its milk is not the only asset that attracts many people to the dromedary, its sports capabilities also draw attention. As camel racing is gaining more popularity and the cost of dromedaries increases, improving the breed has become a real economic challenge. The main objective: improving the animal’s performances by selecting good parents. This is what motivated the creation of a camel reproduction center in Dubai. Its scientific director, Lulu Skidmore, has been working for twenty years on artificial reproduction techniques such as artificial insemination of camels and embryo transfer. Thus, the camel owners can get youngsters off their champions while releasing them from the pregnancy thanks to a system of surrogate mothers, so that they can continue running the track.
This sportive potential of camels is also exported in France with the creation of the French Federation of camels in 2017, under the patronage of Olivier Philipponneau, the first French camel jockey. Next September, the association will be organizing the first exhibition devoted to camelids in France, in the suburbs of Paris. “Our mission is to bring together associations, companies, and individuals who are passionate about camels and dromedaries, so we can collaborate together and show what we do internationally.” On the program, commercial stands but also camel racing and competitions with 400 European jockeys, and a fair that already plans to receive the delegations of Qatar, Chad or Morocco.
Living evidence that the camel seems to be over the hump of its past decline.