The sheep milk industry is predicted to have a turnover of more than $100 million in 10 years time, and could one day rival the wine industry, a Taranaki food conference has been told.
Speaking at Food Futures Taranaki 2016 in New Plymouth on Friday, Massey University management lecturer Craig Prichard said the sheep milk business was already worth $12 million annually.
He said about 26,000 East Friesian ewes were being milked in New Zealand, with 6000 ewes added to the nation's flock last year. He expected a similar number to be added each year over the next four to five years, adding "about a farm a year".
Dr Prichard said most of the milk was being processed into value-added products such as fine cheeses, ice-cream, butter, yoghurt and infant milk formula.
Another speaker at the conference, Massey University vice-chancellor Steve Maharey, challenged the food industry to diversify and be more innovative.
He said New Zealand needed to move away from exporting basic commodities and do more to develop branded, value-added food products that could be sold overseas.
The government aims to triple the $30 billion contributed by food and drink products to export earnings within 15 years.
But Mr Maharey said that was a conservative target, and New Zealand should be looking to emulate the Dutch. He said the Netherlands, from an area the size of Waikato, produces seven times the value New Zealand extracts from its food base.