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Indian farmers discover the beauty of mozzarella.
Since Malik started making mozzarella, India has attracted several other cheesemakers, such as 27-year-old Italian Giuseppe Mozzillo, who runs Haryana-based Exito Gourmet. Mozzillo is still using cow's milk for his cheeses, but he is keen to switch to buffalo as soon as he can develop his supply chain, since buffalo mozzarella sells for about twice as much as cow milk cheese. Flanders Dairy, which operates a farm on the outskirts of Delhi not far from Mozzillo's, also produces bonconcini and Italian mozzarella. Even the Gujarat-based cooperative dairy giant Amul — a milk monolith that generates more than $1 billion in annual revenue — has dipped a toe into the water, making a bargain-basement mozzarella it markets as “pizza cheese.”
Their interest isn't hard to explain. Although there are big challenges to be overcome, the potential for Indian mozzarella is enormous. India produces about 100 million tons of milk a year, of which about 55 percent comes from the country's 40 million buffalo, according to the Animal Production and Health Commission for Asia and the Pacific.
Along with the export market, there's also a fast-growing domestic market for mozzarella and other cheeses. Over the past year or two, domestic cheesemakers like Flanders and Poshtick Foods — which operates a chain of Passion Cheese outlets — have found that their niche is expanding with the proliferation of local food boutiques and foreign specialty shops like Le Marche (a subsidiary of French retail group Geant Hypermarket) as well as the mushrooming of high-end hotels and restaurants.
Meanwhile, the general shortage of buffalo milk has compelled so many of the world's mozzarella makers to use sheep's or cow's milk that the Italian region most famous for its production sought and earned “Protection Designation of Origin” status — making Campania the Champagne of mozzarella — under European Union rules in 1993. India has already begun to put pressure on the EU to remove non-tariff barriers to its agricultural products in exchange for access to its own enormous, fast-growing market. But there soon may be an even more compelling reason for the world to sample India's buffalo mozzarella.
“If you go around the south of Italy, you'll see very few buffaloes,” said Sunil Bhu, who runs Flanders Dairy. “But buffalo mozzarella seems to be sold from Italy all over the world. It's a big question mark.”