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Kazakhstan's camel milk powder hits Chinese market despite COVID-19
Post Time:2020-06-29Author:FOOD2CHINA: Nina Nip

It's the most enchanting season on Kazakhstan's steppes where flocks of cattle, sheep, horses and shepherds on horseback wander under clear blue skies.

Seven kilometers outside of the village of Zhansary in central Kazakhstan's Karaganda Region, a dairy factory producing camel and mare milk powder is in full swing production.

"Recently our camel milk powder successfully entered the Chinese market, despite the pandemic, and horse milk powder is expected to follow suit. Everyone in the factory is feeling motivated," said factory manager Bayan Elshin.

Every morning, Elshin, in his dark green jacket and riding boots, inspects the camel and horse sheds, checks the equipment imported from Germany and instructs workers on safety rules. Sometimes he drives to the nearby hills to watch over 2,000 horses in the pasture.

"Our factory is situated in an uninhabited area where more than 200 camels and 2,500 horses graze on a grassland of 35,000 hectares. Camel milk and mare milk are treasures of the Kazakh people, we are glad that our products are achieving recognition in the Chinese market," said Elshin.

The dairy factory was established by Kazakhstan's Eurasia Investment Co and began production in 2014, with an annual output of 60 tons of camel milk powder and 60 tons of mare milk powder.

Kairzhan Meirambekov, deputy general manager of Eurasia Investment, said that last year the company opened a camel milk powder store at the China-Kazakhstan Horgos International Border Cooperation Center, with annual sales reaching 600 million tenge ($1.5 million).

"This success helps us to understand the huge potential in China and strengthens our determination to dive into the Chinese market," said Meirambekov, adding that, due to the coronavirus epidemic, the Kazakh side of the Horgos cooperation center has been closed since January, a big setback for the factory's sales goal.

On January 29, China's General Administration of Customs issued an announcement allowing Kazakh camel dairy products to enter the Chinese market. Three Kazakh enterprises producing camel dairy products, including Eurasia Invest, are among the first batch of companies receiving export licenses.

After months of arduous efforts, 7,000 cans of camel milk powder weighing 3.5 tons arrived at the Lanzhou New Area Comprehensive Bonded Zone, Northwest China's Gansu Province, on June 12, and began online sales. Over the past two weeks, a total of 138 cans have been sold.

Meirambekov confirmed that milk powder production has not been affected by the pandemic because of its remote location. However, due to border restrictions and quarantine measures amid the state of emergency, the export of the first batch of products had been postponed from February to June.

According to Chinese importers, the import procedure takes several months and is currently encountering difficulties due to the pandemic. Staff have had to switch to working online to communicate with the Kazakh side and create a logistics plan after consulting with the Kazakhstan Import and Export Association, the manufacturer's export agency, said Kang Kewei, manager of the Lanzhou New District Commercial Investment Group Comprehensive Bonded Zone International Trade Co.

"Previously, Kazakhstan's camel milk powder entered the Chinese market only through border trade or overseas purchase. Now, imported milk power is stored at a bonded warehouse. After customers place an order, products can clear customs and be delivered to doorsteps," said Kang.

Kang said consumers in Lanzhou can enjoy their camel milk powder within 24 hours of placing an order, while consumers from other regions can receive the products within a few days.

According to Chinese customs statistics, China imported 1.36 million tons of milk powder valued at $8.3 billion in 2019, jumping by 20.8 percent in volume and 15.5 percent in value over the previous year.

In the first four months of 2020, China's imports of milk powder continued to increase, reaching $3.1 billion, up 5.5 percent year-on- year.

Kang believes that as China's dairy consumption diversifies, camel milk powder from Kazakhstan can provide Chinese consumers with more options.

"For Kazakhstan's dairy industry, the Chinese market offers a huge opportunity. Chinese consumers are learning about camel milk powder and the market size is growing," Merambekov said.

We have not yet obtained an export license for horse milk powder to the Chinese mainland, but the company is already actively promoting horse milk powder in the Chinese market," Merambekov said.

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