afrol News, 24 March - Mauritanians love camel milk, which any good host should immediately offer his guests. Maybe therefore, the desert country has one of the region's few well-developed dairy sectors. New and exciting products are being developed in Nouakchott, still only for the domestic market. The "Caravane" camel cheese of a French brie style is on the market and promises to become a hit. Chocolate of camel milk is also being developed.
Tiviski, the Nouakchott-based dairy, is one of the very few well-functioning of its kind in West Africa - a sub-continent that is over-populated with milk-producing mammals such as cows, goats, sheep and camels. But dairy produce are mostly produced and consumed locally in West Africa, because industrial production of these perishable products and their distribution demands costly plants and a good infrastructure. In West African city super markets, milk, cheese and yoghurt typically are import products from Europe.
Not so in Mauritania. In the traditionally desert-wandering pastoral society, dairy produce have been among the most important sources of nutrition and signs of hospitality. Mauritanians traditionally offer their guests camel milk. Now, dairy produce are also rediscovered in the Mauritanian modernity as a product with roots and development potentials.
The Tiviski dairy, headed by Nancy Abeiderrahmane, has known to set the trend. Based in Nouakchott, Ms Abeiderrahmane has been able to develop new products from old raw materials to satisfy the small but conscious Mauritanian urban market. Milk from camels, cows and goats are used to present a relatively modern group of products.
Basically, the Nouakchott dairy sells traditional milk products to its urban clientele. Pasteurised whole camel or cow milk is sold in half litre cartons, but also a blend of fresh pasteurized camel milk (65 percent) and cow milk, marketed as "El Medina", has found new followers. Especially tourists and other foreigner, who find the pure camel milk a bit heavy, opt for this milder version.
But the dairy also has gone new ways to attract the national audience. Goats are held by a large part of the population due to their drought resistance and ability to find food where there is none and goat milk therefore is produced widely. At Tiviski, the answer to this access to a cheap recourse was the development of "Chev'lait", which is a slightly sweetened cultured goat milk, sold in a quarter litre pouch. Sales are modest, but the new product has found its audience.
The most innovative thinking has however been dedicated to camel milk, which Ms Abeiderrahmane sees a particular interest in promoting. The Tiviski Manager holds that a sound market for camel milk products is the best way to protect these beasts, which secure an environmentally sound soil use in semi-arid and arid zones such as Mauritania.
The biggest success so far has been the launch of "Caravane", which the manager describes as a "soft French-type cheese made from camel milk." The camel cheese has the aspect of a French brie, but has a distinct taste of camel milk. "Caravane" is the first mass produced Mauritanian cheese on the market and seems to have the potential to become a hit. The distinct cheese has already been termed "Camelbert" by humoristic tongues.
Tiviski definitively has plans to enlarge its assortment, although Ms Abeiderrahmane has not yet decided what will be the next product on the market. The manager however has no fears regarding the possibilities of her raw products. "What about a cosmetics line based on camel milk," she jokefully asks.
The Mauritanian manager is aware that a good assortment of camel milk products does not need to be limited to a market of Mauritanian traditionalists. Indeed, there is a great market of Western consumers seeking exotic products and regional specialities. But, "to date, these products are not available for export," Ms Abeiderrahmane notes. Entering the EU or US market is a complicated process that also would demand hygienic control legislation and institutions established by the Mauritanian government to safeguard European or American standards.
The potential of camel milk on international markets was however demonstrated clearly last week, as Al Ain Dairy of the United Arab Emirates signed a contract with the Austrian chocolate manufacturer Hochleitner Ltd to set up a camel chocolate plant in the Emirates that is to become operational in second quarter of 2006. George Hockleitner was the first to successfully produce and market chocolate based on sheep milk and now has designed a tasteful camel chocolate.
"I have combined camel milk from Al Ain and honey from Yemen and we end up with a healthy, tasty and delicious chocolate" said Mr Hochleitner in a recent press statement. The chocolate is to be offered at Arab luxury hotels and may also be sold in Europe. The camel farm providing El Ain with milk has pledged to increase its production by buying 2000 camels more. For Mauritanian camel herders, a similar future initiative by Tiviski could mean new and exiting markets.
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