Sheep milk producer gets $12.6m Crown funding to develop value chain

The global sheep milk market has been estimated at $US8 billion at the farmgate.

The fledgling sheep milk industry has been given a $12.6 million boost, with government funding for a Primary Growth Partnership project with Spring Sheep Milk Co.

The Sheep – Horizon Three programme aims to develop "a market-driven, end-to-end value chain generating annual revenues of between $200-700 million and by 2030," according to a joint statement. The Crown's contribution, via the Ministry for Primary Industries, amounts to 40% of the programme, while Spring Sheep will put in $18.8 million over its six-year life.

Spring Sheep is half-owned by state-owned Landcorp while chief executive Scottie Chapman owns the rest through agri-business marketer and investor SLC Ventures. In March it reported its first season of production from its flock of 4000 East Friesian ewes on the Wairakei Estate farm near Taupo about 60,000 700g cans.

The global sheep milk market has been estimated at $US8 billion at the farmgate, equating to just 2% of the market for cow's milk. Demand is growing in Asia in particular, where it is favoured for its digestibility, flavour and nutritional value, Mr Chapman said. To reach $700 million by 2030 New Zealand will need "up to 55 farms managed by farmers with specific sheep milk expertise."

"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.

The PGP includes establishing a research farm to look at improving the genetics of sheep and to develop farming and environmental systems. MPI and Spring Sheep are negotiating a contract to formalise the programme.

In March, Chapman said he was embarking on a promotional tour of Asia, taking a selection of the company's potential products including whole milk powder, probiotic powder, calcium tablets, sheep milk tablets and gelato through trade shows across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.


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