Author: Redazione Alimenta

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Sardinia, the land of centenarians, is attracting great interest

Sardinia is truly unique, even from a genetic point of view. It is the true land of centenarians. This is partly due to the islanders’ healthy diet in which sheep play a major part – from quality meat to dairy products rich in organoleptic properties. It is a well-known fact that Sardinia, particularly certain areas such as Ogliastra, is one of the so-called “Blue Zones”, i.e. an area which has a higher number of centenarians in relation to the population. It is a lesser known fact that the meticulous research on the population’s DNA carried out in the island’s ‘Genos di Perdasdefogu’ genetic park has received particular attention due to the alleged theft of thousands of test tubes. Without going into detail, the fact in itself is – notwithstanding everything – a sign of the considerable amount of attention that this sector is attracting, especially at an international level. SharDNA and its database was recently bought by a British company for €250,000.

Various projects have been developed in the last few years. The Progenia Project, which was started at the end of 2001 in collaboration with CNR and involved 6,148 Sardinians, set itself the goal of identifying factors responsible for human ageing and discovering the connection between obesity, waist circumference and the quantity of insulin present in a subject. The AKEA Project (AKEA is an acronym derived from the Sardinian expression “A Kent’Annos”, which means ‘May you live a hundred years’), based on research carried out since 1997 by a team led by Luca Deiana of the University of Sassari, has been fully discussed in previous articles.

The study showed that in Sardinia on average 22 every 100,000 inhabitants are centenarians compared to the average of eight to ten in other parts of the world. These numbers are expected to increase given that the figure of 13.5 centenarians for the period of ’97-’99 rose to ten in 2000. This knowledge, which is of great importance, must be protected and made known together with some of the other fundamental pieces that make up this ‘mosaic’, such as the Sardinian diet and quality of life.

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New Zealand sheep milk powder for Taiwan

New Zealand sheep milk powder (also known as Ewe milk powder) has been launched in Taiwan and is the first of its kind on the market. Its name is Spring Sheep. New Zealand company Spring Sheep Milk, which started the new venture, is in partnership with the state-owned enterprise Landcorp and milks 3,000 ewes that graze freely in the Central Plateau. The company specialises in nutrition powders for adults in Asian markets and in the ice cream industry for the New Zealand market.

Chief executive of Spring Sheep Milk Co New Zealand Scottie Chapman said that the company is selling sheep milk powder through a pharmaceutical chain, and that sheep milk with probiotics and prebiotics for a healthy gut will soon be launched.
In Chapman’s opinion, Taiwan, an island of just over 35,000 square metres with a population of 23 million inhabitants, is the ideal market as it has very sophisticated consumers who appreciate quality. They pay attention to alternative dairy products and comprehend the added value of products from New Zealand.

This year about 95% of production – 60,000 700g cans – arrived on the Taiwanese market.
Meanwhile, in New Zealand there is a definite move towards sheep milking with its niche product that is geared towards the high end of the market, especially in Asia. Areas that were covered with forests until recently, like the one between Rotorua and Taupo, have now been earmarked for sheep breeding and dairy production for Landcorp, which has a milking parlour that is able to milk 120 ewes at the same time.

In addition, it appears that the environmental impact of dairy sheep feed is 30% lower than that of dairy cows.
Today, on a global level, the demand for sheep milk products is greater than supply; the fact New Zealand is in a position to supply areas of the Pacific and the Asian market makes it a potential leader in world sheep milk production.

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New Zealand milk and cream exports are booming

The January/September period saw a boom in New Zealand milk and cream exports. However, most of the industry registered extremely positive figures bar very few exceptions. In September this year, compared to the same month the previous year, New Zealand exports of the following products increased in volume: packaged and unpackaged milk (+56.5%), milk cream (+74%), infant formula (+92%), whey powder (+77%), skimmed milk powder (+50%), whole milk powder (+10,5%) and cheese (+3%). The only products to decrease in volume were butter (-5%) and caseins (-37%). This significant increase in volume boosts export volume figures for the January/September period, which are all very positive – with triple-digit peaks for infant formula (+108%) and condensed milk (+150.5%) – except for whole milk powder (-4%) and caseins (-10%). Caseinates are almost stable (-0.3%). The situation for exports in terms of value differs as negative results predominate with the exception of infant formula (+86%), milk and cream (+36%) and condensed milk (+23.5%). Naturally, these figures are positive only because consistent increases were registered in terms of volume compared to the previous year.
Let’s return to milk and cream. So what are the main export markets of unpackaged and packaged milk and New Zealand cream? The top export market for both milk and cream is China (with a market share of 53% and 59% respectively). Exports of milk to the Asian giant have increased by 86% (64,589 tonnes). Second place goes to the Philippines, with an increase of 5% (23,259 tonnes). Taiwan holds third place and has registered an increase of 55% compared to the same period in 2015. Figi and Singapore follow with 4,256 and 3,315 tonnes respectively.
Export markets for cream are also mostly Asian (bar Australia which is the third biggest market with a market share of 4%, 1,984 tonnes of product and an 11% increase). At a considerable distance behind China, which absorbs a good 27,636 tonnes and is growing at a rate of 82%, is Malaysia with 2,392 tonnes, a market share of 5% and a 34% increase.

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China: milk powder imports fall whereas cheese is on the rise

There has been a sharp drop in Chinese milk powder imports. In September of this year there was a significant drop in whole milk powder (-46.5%) compared to the same month in 2015, which ate into the positive performance of this year’s January-September period (+19.6% in volume and +7.1% in value), taking it into the negative. The decline in skimmed milk powder imports continues; the drop of 51.2% in September accentuated the decline in the January-September period by 7.7% in volume and 25.8% in value. Butter imports are also decreasing (-16.8%) but can in any case count on a positive trend from the start of the year through to September of 25.5%.

Imports of the following products increased sharply in September: whey powder by 25.1%, confirming the upward trend of this year’s January-September period (+16%) which remained considerably negative, however, in terms of value (-21.6%); milk and cream (+8.8%, +55.2% in the January-September period) and cheese, with a 7% increase in September and a substantial 27.7% increase in the first nine months of 2016. Moreover, cheese imports are growing in terms of value (+17.1%). The growth trend of infant formula was also slightly positive (+1% in volume).

Going back to the drop in milk powder, this year’s figures regarding whole milk powder are the most staggering as imports began with a stratospheric +52.3% in January before stabilising at more physiological quantities. The vast majority of the product arrives from New Zealand, followed at a considerable distance by Australia. Skimmed milk powder supplies are more varied; export countries include New Zealand, the main supplier of the Asian giant, the United States, Australia and, at more of a distance, France and Germany. Also in this case a peak in January (+43.2%) was followed by a physiological decrease which, here, led to decidedly negative result. Cheese imports, however, are still growing, and registered a peak last July of +36.6%. Also in this case it is New Zealand which dominates, followed by Australia, the United States, France and the smaller country of Denmark.

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Alimenta: a joint-venture with Blue River Dairy to consolidate itself in the Chinese sheep and goat milk market

Sardinian products and ingredients made from sheep and goats are increasingly present in China. What is more, the agreement signed between Alimenta and Blue River Dairy, a well-established Chinese manufacturer from the sheep and goat infant formula sector, represents another important step in reinforcing the Sardinian company in Asia’s biggest market.

The objective of Alimenta, based in Macomer, is to consolidate its position in the Chinese infant formula market. The terms of the agreement were illustrated by Gualtiero Cualbu, president of Minoter Spa (the group that controls Alimenta), Enrico Cualbu and Simone Colombo (respectively managing director and general director of Alimenta Srl), president of Blue River Dairy Yuanrong Chen and CEO of Alimenta Hong Kong Ltd Litao Chen. XU Xiaofeng, Economic and Commercial Minister Counsellor of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Italy, was present, as was Sardinia’s Regional Councillor of Agriculture Elisabetta Falchi.

95% of production destined for export, a production capacity of 3 million litres of sheep milk and 35 million litres of whey/scotta a year from sheep and goat milk powder, and a turnover in 2016 of 6 million euros – these are just some of the figures that Alimenta boasts. Company director Mr Colombo stated that Alimenta is ready to make investments in order to consolidate, in the medium term, sheep and goat milk as quality ingredients for infant nutrition. It aims to put finished Alimenta branded products containing Sardinian sheep infant formula on the Chinese shop shelves as well as renovate its factory by continuing to focus on quality, both in terms of facilities and products, in view of a production increase.

For Minoter’s president Gualtiero Cualbu, the Alimenta brand is about to become a global brand just like Blue River is today, with the two companies operating in the world’s markets to produce infant formula products. According to Cualbu, the agreement could relaunch an important sector for the Sardinian economy by absorbing considerable quantities of whey and scotta from the cheese factories. The equation is simple: the more milk that is taken away from the traditional cheese market, the more the market will stabilize.

50 million euros is the figure that Blue River could arrive at in the next few years – according to Yuanrong Chen – to upgrade its existing plants and build new ones. The objective is to arrive at an overall production of 200 tonnes and become, together with Alimenta, an important producer at a local level and a world leader in sheep milk as a raw material and finished products such as infant formula.


[Above, the main speakers of the press conference for the presentation of the joint venture Alimenta-Blue River Dairy]

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Milk production down in Australia

Milk production in August was down by 9.28% in Australia compared to the same month the previous year. Reasons for this are to do with the weather situation. Although spring rains brought some relief to livestock farmers in the southeast and a reduction in prices of water for irrigation (with subsequent reduced feed costs), there is, however, a downside: the rain was excessive in some areas and therefore had a negative impact on milk quality and pastures.
The month of August showed that the negative trend persists. In Australia in this year’s January-August period milk production was down by 9.77% compared to the same period in 2015 (although the data is provisional). The drop in production in New Zealand was decidedly less, amounting to 2%. An example of how continuous efforts are being made by the milk processing industry to seek new, more profitable sectors is given by the announcement of an intention to build a new plant in New Zealand for the production of infant formula intended for export.
Let’s look at the trend of dairy products. Butter prices are increasing slightly, which has prompted many buyers to secure themselves stock since they believe it is possible that prices will go up further. As far as Cheddar cheese is concerned, prices have remained unchanged with the market well-balanced between stock and market demand. Maximum prices are slightly down for skimmed milk powder due to price pressure and European stocks that are weighing on the global market. Whole milk powder prices are also decreasing slightly due to considerable quantities of the product being in stock not having found a buyer. This in turn causes a decrease in attention on the part of the buyers.

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A Mark of Origin for a well-known New Zealand cheese

The name Kaikoura won’t mean much to most people, yet in New Zealand it stands for two excellencies: a sea town on the South Island where you can see spectacular whales and dolphins (a real tourist destination that is attracting increasing numbers of visitors wanting to see these marine mammals) and a renowned New Zealand cheese named Kaikoura that is produced in a factory of Fonterra Group. A debate is currently underway to map out a way to promote this speciality; and the proposal to promote this well-known traditional cheddar by way of a mark that recalls the tourist destination and promotes local production is gaining increasing support. As demonstrated by wine, geographical indications can be a good way to valorize local products. What is more, this seems to be an opportune moment. On account of the current dairy industry conditions, the New Zealand company will necessarily have to reduce its plants, including the Kaikoura plant which is destined for closure and where around thirty people are employed. The goal is to concentrate the production of mozzarella, spreadable cheese and protein powders such as Lactoferrin in other plants.

On the other hand, Fonterra is not new to these initiatives. The company previously invested in brand equity in Kapiti cheese, which is now known in the country as premium cheese. In the case of Kaikoura, a geographical indication would have the advantage of linking the cheese to a place that is already well-known and widely visited (more than 800,000 tourists from all over the world with a 17% increase in December compared to the previous year). In addition, there are several other interesting companies to support the designation of origin mark that produce other types of award-winning artisan Kaikoura cheese with goat or cow’s milk, or a mixture of both.

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Northern European milk powder for Senegal

Northern European cooperative Arla Foods, a major player in the global dairy sector as far as organic production is concerned, has opened a new plant for the packaging of milk powder in Senegal’s capital city Dakar. This initiative is part of the company’s 2020 strategy and the Senegalese plant is the first building brick in its expansion throughout West Africa, right as far as Nigeria’s huge market. These are the figures: the Senegalese plant is expected to package up to 5,000 tonnes of milk powder produced in Europe. The new production at the plant, which covers an area of 1,400 square metres, will regard sacks of various portions. The Senegalese subsidiary Agroline will take care of distribution with the objective of extending into Mali by 2016, followed by Mauritania.

The milk produced in the whole of Africa (almost 37 million tonnes of cow’s milk amounting to 5.9% of world production, with a dairy cattle population of just over 70 million animals) satisfies 88.4% of total needs (2013 data). There is a surplus production only in South Africa whereas in the western part of the continent not nearly enough milk is produced. Senegal produces 81% of its requirement.

Milk is very much present as a product in the countries in this geographical area as farming is a traditional practice in the lives of some tribes. Sweetened condensed milk is particularly marketed due to the environmental conditions and high temperatures and humidity of the tropical climate. Flavoured milk powder, evaporated milk and yoghurt are becoming increasingly popular, growing at an annual rate of 5%.

Senegal has a population of roughly 14 million inhabitants and, given its strategic position on the Atlantic Ocean, is an important transit country and logistics point for interior countries such as Mali and Burkina Faso.

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EU dairy exports on the rise in August

EU dairy exports rose sharply in August. This is clearly evident from percentage increases that refer to volume for the following products: butter (+35.3%), milk and cream (+30.3%), infant formula (+26.6%), whey powder (+21.2%), cheese (+18.9%) and milk powder (+5.1%). The only negative figures regard skimmed milk powder (-31.0%).

The value of exports amounted to €9,107 million and that of imports to €512 million, with a trade surplus of €8,595 million.
Where was this huge flow of dairy products exported to? First and foremost to South-East Asia whose total imports, which are equal to 29% of the market share, increased by 2.1%. Africa, whose total imports fell by 14.6% and are equal to 24% of the market share, follows immediately afterwards. Third place is held by the Middle East whose total imports,  equal to 20% of the market share, increased by 6.8%. Both North America and non-EU European countries each account for 7% of the market share; the former registered an increase of 4.4% and the latter an increase of 10.3%.

In the period January-August of this year, the total volume of exports increased by 8.3% compared to the same period in 2015 (with a decrease, however, of 1.3% in value). This period registered a considerable increase for caseinates (+114.4% but with a price depreciation of 8.7%), butter (+40% and +29.7% in value), milk and cream (+38.7% and 24.8% in value), cheese (+13.8% and +3% in value) and infant formula (+11.3% and +6.5% in value). Significant, however, are the decreases registered for condensed milk (-26% with the same percentage for value) and skimmed milk powder (-18.3% and -28.1% in value).

Let’s take a look at cheese exports. The main export market is the United States which has a market share of 17% and, in the period January-August, registered an increase of 2% compared to the same period the previous year. The second largest market is Japan, which is currently growing at a rate of 11%. Third place goes to Switzerland, with a growth rate of 4%. Fifth and sixth place are occupied respectively by Saudi Arabia (+20%) and South Korea (+30%); both are better performing markets as they are less mature.

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Raw milk prices on the rise in New Zealand

New Zealand milk production in August has caused concern about the availability of milk during the months to come and the effects of this have not been slow to emerge. For example a major New Zealand cooperative, Fonterra, has recently increased the price of milk paid to farmers. The increase was introduced in June and goes against the trend of the same month the previous year. August, with €28.46 per quintal, exceeded both the same month in 2015 (€22.58 per quintal) and in 2014 (€26.97 per quintal). Most likely this increase is due to the fact that milk production in August was down by 2.68% compared to the same month the previous year. This slowdown was caused by bad weather at the end of August and this could have affected production. July experienced less of a decline in production, registering a fall of 1.99% compared to the same month the previous year.
It is evident that the price of raw milk has in some way had an effect on the behaviour of principle dairy products.
As far as butter is concerned, maximum prices are falling slightly but availability is good and buyers are feeling no pressure to finalise purchases.
Prices of Cheddar cheese are rising slightly since production continues to be constrained by the availability of milk at the start of this production season.
Minimum prices of skimmed milk powder have risen slightly and maximum prices considerably even if in actual fact volumes are fairly insignificant given that New Zealand producers of this type of product consider other dairy products to be more profitable. It is worth pointing out that producers operating in the skimmed milk market in Oceania closely follow European prices.
The position of producers of whole milk powder is more tranquil. Prices have risen slightly and have remained at maximum levels seen this year. What is more, producers are optimistic that prices will stabilize at this level in the near future.

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