By Ron Chen, Senior Correspondent ASEAN Region
Foreign Agricultural Service Administrator Daniel Whitley recently traveled to Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), to kick off the first US Department of Agriculture-sponsored in-person trade mission since November 2019.
Administrator Whitley led a delegation of US agribusinesses, farm organizations, state departments of agriculture, and state and regional trade representatives interested in exploring diverse export opportunities across the Middle East, on several site visits to meet with importers and agribusinesses in Dubai.
One incredible destination during the trip was Camelicious, the first and largest camel milking farm in the world. Their visit began with a tour of the Camelicious plant and farm facilities to observe how camel milk is collected, processed, and packaged. After sampling camel milk products, the delegation ventured outdoors to greet a few camels up close, offering carrots to them for an afternoon snack. For Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Karen Ross the visit was particularly meaningful as Camelicious imports California Grown feed for their operation.
“It was truly a pleasure to be part of the USDA’s Agricultural Trade Mission to UAE,” said Ross. “Expanding trade opportunities and business relationships is critical to US farmers and ranchers. At Camelicious, we saw an innovative company celebrating the culture of the region and providing a product enjoyed not only locally, but on American supermarket shelves as well. Our state is pleased to be part of the story, with California Grown feed being enjoyed by the nearly 10,000 camels on the farm – agriculture is truly an amazing industry.”
Camelicious is an example of successful bilateral trade between the United States and the UAE. Camelicious produces fresh milk, ghee, endurance drinks, coffee, ice cream, infant formula, whole and skimmed powered milk, and cosmetics from camel milk and its derivatives. The foundation for these dairy products is the camel’s diet of high quality, nutritious alfalfa, sourced from California and Washington. US exports of alfalfa totaled US$99.6 million to the Gulf Cooperation Council in 2021, of which 20 percent went to the UAE. The UAE ranked as the second most-valued destination behind Saudi Arabia with US$73 million, according to the Global Agricultural Trade System. In turn, the camel milk products are then exported to the United States and around the world.