The pandemic hurt their business but Nepali producers and exporters of the hardest cheese in the world, the Chhurpi, are now ready to take on the U.S. and other international markets where the cubes and sticks of hardened milk have found favor as dog chews.
In a comprehensive study published on January 2, 2023 (Exploring trade prospects of Chhurpi and the present status of Chhurpi producers and exporters of Nepal, by Panta R., Paswan V.K., Kanetkar P. et al.), the authors noted that much can be done to improve the livelihood conditions of those in the Chhurpi business as both their numbers and their products' export potentials grow.
“Chhurpi has been an underutilized dairy product in Nepal, but it is gradually becoming more and more popular among dairy farmers," the authors wrote. "Promising a virgin and untapped export market as pet food, this indigenous Nepali dairy product has a high potential for income generation for farmers and traders."
The study revealed that from 2017 to 2020, Chhurpi companies' export sales rose from 15.6% to 40%, which translates to an average growth rate from 10% to 11% annually. But the pandemic dampened this growth streak as production and movement of goods became hard due to lockdowns.
Now that business activities are picking up again, Chhurpi exporters are looking at Europe, Canada, Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia and Japan for expansion. But their main focus remains to be the U.S. market where there's a large number of pet dogs and people willing to spend as much as $442 on dog food and treats in 2020, according to the research company Statista.
More about Chhurpi as a dog chew
Nepalese Chhurpi is a 100% natural product that is free from gluten, grain, preservatives and artificial flavoring. It is made by coagulating milk to partly remove the whey from the milk of animals such as yaks, chauris, cows and buffaloes. A mix of cattle or yak milk and buffalo milk is said to product the best kind of Chhurpi with smooth and uniform surface that is an ideal quality for exports.
Chhurpi contains protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, fat and other minerals like calcium and phosphorus. It is said to be low on lactose after undergoing fermentation. Constantly chewing on it can remove a dog's dental plaque and tartar, and keep a dog preoccupied for hours.
Chhurpi exporters face mounting challenges
Chhurpi as a premium export product for pet dogs has proven to be good business in the past 10 years, the study said, so that several big companies are now behind it. The most prominent ones are Himalayan Dog Chew, Native Nepali Agro Supplies Pvt. Ltd., Omega Pet Foods Exports, International Himalayan Dairy Industries Pvt. Ltd., Zephyr International Pvt. Ltd., Continental Cashmere Pvt. Ltd., Unique Organics Pvt. Ltd. Kathmandu Nepal, Made in Nepal Pvt. Ltd., Fireball Trading Company Pvt. Ltd., Sudha Trading Pvt. Ltd., Nepa Dog Chew, Everest Dog Chew, Silver Lining, Godawari International, and Naulo Venture.
The study added, however, that many unregistered private companies also operate in this space and compete in a way that can undermine the ones above. It is a problem combined with other challenges related to animal breeding, limited infrastructure, operational costs, limited technical knowledge, animal disease prevention and feeds shortage.
Chhurpi exporters and producers are asking their government for more assistance in terms of subsidies, tax relief, new facilities, lower bank loan rates and certified Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) free zones, to help them successfully move their hard cheese out in the world.
The study of the current status of Chhurpi producers and exporters was conducted in July and August of 2021.