The Saudi entrepreneur keeping camel milk flowing in America

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Walid Abdul-Wahab, who runs a company called Desert Farms, was brought up in Jeddah but moved to Los Angeles in 2008. (Supplied)
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Desert Farms products have proved popular and the company model should prove resilient to tough economic times. (Supplied)
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Updated 15 May 2020

The Saudi entrepreneur keeping camel milk flowing in America

  • Walid Abdul-Wahab from Jeddah has built his camel milk company in California
  • The Desert Farms structure should prove resilient in tough economic times.

LOS ANGELES: When it comes to drinking milk, most Americans only think of cows. 

But a company run by a young Saudi entrepreneur has been trying to change habits after introducing camel milk to the US market.

Walid Abdul-Wahab, who runs a company called Desert Farms, was brought up in Jeddah but moved to Los Angeles in 2008 to study at the University of Southern California.

It was there he had the idea to introduce camel milk as an alternative dairy product to health-conscious customers.

“I wanted to bring something positive from back home where I’m from: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia,” Abdul-Wahab said. “I decided to introduce a new kind of breed of milk that is almost 10 times better than cow’s and goat’s milk and actually the closest milk to human breast milk.”

Abdul-Wahab set up partnerships with family farms rearing camels across the US to produce the milk domestically.

He is confident his hard work over the years means his business can ride through the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Whenever you’re dealing with food and your business is fully online, and you actually own your own customers, meaning that you have direct relationships, you know who’s buying, you know where they’re from, it’s very difficult for a business like that to be affected by any sort of recession,” he said. 

Abdul-Wahab said his company sells on Amazon and through the Desert Farms website as well as in regular retail stores.

Along with health conscious customers, another market is selling the milk to Muslims, particularly during Ramadan. 

Although mosques are closed in the US this Ramadan, Abdul-Wahab is working to ensure that Desert Farms can provide milk to Muslims observing the holy month during the shutdown.

As a young entrepreneur, he said he believes challenging times like these are when the best business ideas flourish.

“We’re not in a true recession but it does have a lot of similar traits and I do strongly believe that some of the best ideas are gonna come out during this time,” Abdul-Wahab said. 

He encouraged businesspeople in the Arab world who want to start companies in the US to go for it. “It's honestly the easiest country in the world to start any business you want,” he said.

On top of his business, Abdul-Wahab is trying to make sure his family stays fit and focused during the pandemic lockdown.

“Me and my kids are always extremely active,” Abdul-Wahab said. “We definitely keep a distance from everyone as much as possible, but that doesn’t mean we don’t go out. I take my kids to the park almost on a daily basis, and we just continue doing sports.”


Oil surges on hopes of new deal on output cuts

Updated 02 June 2020

Oil surges on hopes of new deal on output cuts

  • Brent price has doubled in five weeks
  • OPEC talks may be brought forward

DUBAI: Oil prices surged toward $40 a barrel on Monday as hopes rose for an early agreement to extend the big production cuts agreed by Saudi Arabia and Russia under the OPEC+ alliance.

Brent, the global benchmark, jumped by more 9 percent to nearly $39, continuing the surge that has doubled the price in five weeks — the best performance in its history. It recovered after record supply cuts agreed between the 23 countries of the OPEC+ partnership, and enforced cuts in US shale oil.

DME Oman crude, the regional benchmark in which a lot of Saudi Aramco exports are priced, rose above $40 a barrel for the first time since early March.

Market sentiment was buoyed by the possibility that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries would agree with non-OPEC members to extend the cuts for a longer period than was agreed in April.

Oil analysts expect OPEC to fast track a “virtual” meeting to formally agree to maintaining cuts at the record 9.7 million barrels a day level. The meeting was scheduled for June 9, but bringing it forward would allow producers more time to set pricing levels.

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An official with one OPEC delegation told Arab News there was consensus among the 23 OPEC+ members for the new date, which could be as early as June 4. The meeting will also consider how long the current level of cuts would be maintained. Some OPEC members want it to run to the end of the year, other producers would prefer a two-month extension.

Omar Najia, global head of derivatives with trader BB Energy, told a forum run by Gulf Intelligence consultancy: “I’d be amazed if OPEC did not extend the higher level of cuts. As long as Saudi Arabia and Russia continue saying nice things to each other I’d expect the rally to continue.”

A Moscow source close to the oil industry said energy officials there had come to the conclusion that “the deal is working” and it was important to keep prices at an “acceptable” level.

Sentiment was also affected by a comparatively high level of compliance with the new cuts, running at about 75 percent among OPEC+ members, with only Iraq and Nigeria noticeable under-compliers.

Robin Mills, chief executive of Qamar Energy, said: “That’s where I’d expect it to be after two months in such a fluid situation. It will be even better in June.”