Livestock Research for Rural Development 21 (7) 2009 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD News

Citation of this paper

Development of milk production and the dairy industry in Jordan

O Alqaisi, O A Ndambi and T Hemme

IFCN, Dairy Research Center at the Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Kiel-Germany


Development of the dairy industry plays an important role in the economy of Jordan.  During the early 70’s, Jordan established  programs to promote dairy farming. Farmers imported improved dairy cows, complying with top industry operating standards, in addition to introducing the latest technology in processing, packaging and distribution. However, the previous dairy farming management programs and the lack of water and feed resources have partially hampered the dairy industry and still pose a problem due to the increasing dairy cow numbers. Jordan experienced noticeable growth in milk production and consumption during the last two decades. Milk production was growing by 5.4% between 2002 and 2007.


The objective of this article is to show the recent developments in milk production in Jordan. It also attempts to understand the drivers for the development in milk production.

Key words: Farming systems, feed resources, milk processing


Jordan is a small country and has a total surface area of 89.2 Km2 with about 90% of this area considered as semi-arid (PRB 2008, MOA 2001, Bourn 2003).  Jordan is divided into three main geographical areas with different climates: the highlands, the Jordan Valley and the eastern desert. The northern segment of the Jordan Valley, known as the Ghor, is the nation’s most fertile region (UNIDO 2008). This region is several degrees warmer than the rest of the country, with an average annual rainfall fluctuating between 100 to 250 mm. The year-round agricultural climate, fertile soils, high winter rainfall and extensive summer irrigation have made the Ghor the food bowl of Jordan. Agriculture in the Jordan valley is irrigated cultivation. Dairy farming in this region is mainly at small scale, with a typical farm size ranging between one and five dairy cows. Due to the high temperatures, humidity and incidence of diseases, large scale dairy farming is not common.


The highlands of Jordan separate the Jordan Valley and its borders from the plains of the eastern desert. This region extends through the entire length of the western part of the country and hosts most of Jordan’s main population centers. Dairy farming is most prominent in areas surrounding big cities like Amman, Irbid, Madaba, Jerash, where the average annual rainfall is between 300 to 200 mm. The highlands of Jordan receive Jordan’s highest rainfall, and have the richest vegetation in the country and daytime temperatures during the summer months frequently exceed 36C and average about 32C.


The Eastern Desert represents about 90% of the country and more than 50% of the produced milk comes from the semi-arid region that is Al-Dhulel region with very hot summers (NCARE 2002 and MOA 2008). Daytime the summer temperatures can exceed 40C, while winter nights can be very cold, dry and windy. Average rainfall is less than 200 mm annually. Although all the regions of the Badia (or desert) are characterized by their harsh desert climate, similar vegetation types and low population densities, they vary considerably according to their underlying geology. In spite of the higher temperature and the climate conditions; intensive dairy farming in the eastern desert seems promising. The government has designated this area especially for dairy farming.  Dairy farming in this region is characterized by intensive production systems and zero-grazing, due to the absence of the irrigated crop production and separated crop-dairy farming system.


About 75% of the country's cultivable land comprises of rain-fed territory to the north producing wheat, barley, lentils and chickpeas. The remaining quarter of agricultural land in the Jordan Valley and the highlands is irrigated and produces eggplants, bananas, potatoes, cucumbers, citrus fruits, tomatoes and onions (WENE 2000).


The contribution of the agricultural sector to the country’s GDP was 2.5% in 2006 and currently, it employs 5.7% of the labour force in Jordan (DOS 2006 and UNIDO 2008). Although the agricultural sector's share of GDP declined in comparison with other sectors of the economy, farming remains economically important and production grows in reasonable terms.


Milk production trends 

Jordanian total milk production is estimated at 260 thousand tons in 2006.of which Around 208 thousand tons are cow milk, 32 thousand tons from sheep and 20 thousand tons from goats. According to the statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture (2006), the Jordanian livestock population consists of 2 million sheep, 450 thousand goats and 50 thousand milking (dairy) cows (MOA 2006). 


Jordan has experienced a rapid population growth of 2.5% annually over the last decades and an increasing demand for milk and dairy products. This has encouraged dairy farmers to improve on production by importing high milk producing dairy cows to replace the low-yielding local Jordanian breeds (Lafi et al 1995). Currently, the Holstein Friesian cows represent 96% of the total population of dairy cows in the country (MOA 2006). In 1981, numbers of Friesian dairy cows were 6000 and by 2006 there were 50 thousand dairy cows (MOA 2006). Table 1 and Figure 1 show milk production from different livestock species in Jordan between 2000 and 2007.  

Table 1.  Total milk production in Jordan from different animals  (1000 tons)


Cows milk

Sheep milk

Goat milk

Total milk production




































Source: MOA 2006

Source: MOA 2007

Figure 1.  Milk production in Jordan

The tremendous increase in dairy production is due to the increase in population growth and the increased demand for milk and dairy products. For this goal, the governments permit the imports of improved dairy cattle from Europe, USA and recently from Australia. The percentage of self-sufficiency has also changed significantly since 1980 from 35% and was 57% in 2006 (MOA 2006).


Dairy production systems 

Based on the data resources from the Ministry of Agriculture in 2006, there are 605 dairy farms in Jordan. These farms are distributed into different production systems as described in the succeeding paragraphs.


The intensive production system


The intensive production system is dominant in the eastern semi-arid area of Jordan. It also exists in other large farms distributed across the country.  The semi-arid area produces the largest amount of milk in the country.  The area is described by high temperature in the summer time and very low temperature in winter. This system comprises of farms where the number of cows per farm exceeds 10 dairy cows. There are 605 dairy farms adopting this system in Jordan.  Two categories can be classified: the large scale farms and the average-size farms. Currently Holstein Friesian which has been imported from USA, Europe is the dominant breed reared in this system. Animals are reared in modern barns especially in those farms which have recently been established. Land size is very small and in most cases less than one hectare per farm.  However, stanchion barns are still used by dairy farmers in this system.


The farms are attached to each other in an area specially designated to gather dairy farms called Al-Dhulel. Al-Dhulel, is considered the most intensive milk producing area, producing about 50% of the total milk produced in the country (Ghros and Heidhues 1988).  In this area dairy farmers benefit from the dairy breeders association, which helps farmers in milk marketing, water support and other technical issues. Farmers use modern milking machines and equipments. Management and animal health control requirements are high if high productivity, high reproduction levels and low mortality rates are to be achieved (Ghros 1988).


Crop production is separated from dairy farming in this system. Dairy farming basically depends on concentrate feeds (maize, barley, soybeans, wheat bran).  Animals also fed on wheat straw and alfalfa hay. Fresh alfalfa bought by dairy farmers is grown with (high quality) reused treated water. Feeding systems are more developed in the large farms than the average-sized farms, where total mixed rations and advanced feeding programs are applied. Feeders are used to deliver fodder and concentrates to the barns. The average-sized farms in Al-Dhulel area is between 40-100 cows per farm. In these farms, feeding programs are not developed as in the larger farms (more than 100 cows per farm). Unbalanced rations are commonly offered to dairy cattle. Grain straw (wheat, barely) is the sole roughage given to dairy cattle on most of farms (Adib 1969). Recently, the tremendous increase in fodder prices has influenced the rations fed to animals. Straw and hay prices increased greatly, farmers feed about 700 grams of concentrate to obtain one kg of milk. Several metabolic problems develop because of unbalanced rations that are fed. Lafi et al (1995) found that the major feeds (per 1000 kg) used by dairy farmers consists of barley (500 kg), sorghum (50 kg), soybeans (240 kg), wheat bran (180 kg), NACL (14 kg), limestone dust (15 kg) and vitamins and mineral supplements (1 kg).


Cows under this system produce about 6000 kg/cow/year in average. Production level differs however from one farm to another based on management practices and the available feed resources. In some big farms, milk production level is comparable to that in developed countries.

In terms of productivity, cows in larger herds produce more milk than cows in average-sized herds. Consequently, the reproductive ability of the cows is not related to their yield.


Small-scale production system


Small-scale production systems exist in different regions in the country, particularly in the northern highlands, and the Jordan Valley (Ghor region). Dairy farmers in the high lands have been rearing cows a long time ago using Akshi and Shami breeds.  There is no exact figures on the number of dairy farms in this system as the government usually neglects this category of farmers, focusing on the large scale production system.  Farm size fluctuates from 1 to 10 dairy cows.


During the last two decades, farmers have replaced their local cows with high yielding Holstein Friesian due to its high productivity.  Akshi (local breed) with a birth weight ranging between 19 and 21 kg and having a good growth rate is commonly used in this system. However, the number of local (Baladi) cows has diminished during the last few decades. In 2007, number of Baladi cows was only 4% of the total dairy cattle in Jordan (MOA 2007).  Baladi cows are small, stocky and well adapted to the relatively harsh environment (HTSL 1978). The Damascus breed is sometimes crossed with Baladi cattle because of its higher production potential for milk and meat. The Damascus red breed (known locally as Shami cattle) is still present, but its number is decreasing drastically. Baladi cows reared under this system could be pure breed (Akshi or Shami), or cross-breed of different local breeds. Baladi cows are resistant and can sustain under very poor management and environmental conditions. They are kept under poor conditions and inconsistence rangelands (Harb 1989).


Cows are housed in small traditional brick barns, with no protection against solar radiation in the hot summer, or the cold weather in winter. Less management practices than in the intensive system are observed. This system is also characterized by poor feeding resources, less health management, and no sound housing system. Farmers use both hand milking and mobile milking machines.


Small scale farming in the highlands is characterized by interdependency between crop and livestock production. A small area of the land is used for dairy farming, while the rest of the farm is used for crop production. Cows in some cases graze on crop residues (wheat and barley straw).


 Cows produce lower milk than in the intensive system due to the lower quality of feedstuff offered to the animals, for example household food residues, or high lignin fiber feed stuff (i.e.: straw), and due to the poor management level. Cattle are fed on concentrate feed, agricultural by products and household food residues. A majority of small farmers depend at least partly on purchased feed, due to the reducing rainfall volume in the last few years. 

Small-scale production systems in Gohr region is slightly differ from dairy farming in the highland, crops in the Gohr  are irrigated and farmers produce alfalfa and other fodder crops. Farmers rear both Local and Holstein Friesian cows. Generally only small pieces of land are used to produce fodder crops. Farmers prefer to use crop by-products or commercial grazing in the short rainy period (Ghros and Heidhues 1989) They use forage and by-products from farm operations but still depend to a lesser extent, on purchased concentrate feed.


In this scale of production, natural breeding is dominant, while artificial insemination is rarely practiced. Local (Baladi) cow breeds in general produce about 1277 kg of milk per year (Tabba 2002). Friesian cows reared under this system produce about 4500 kg milk per year.

The objective of rearing cows is for subsistence and for a little cash income. Milk is sometimes processed on the farm to laban, concentrated yoghurt (Labneh), yoghurt, cheese and ghee for household consumption or for marketing in village or in the surrounding markets. 


The development of the herd structure shows that even for small scale farmers rearing purebred Holstein cows is more economical (Ghros and Heidhues 1988), compared to the Baladi cows. Local breeds have many disadvantages like late maturity, long calving interval, a low conception rate and a very low milk yield.  The big advantage for the Friesian cows compared to the Baladi cows is the much higher yield, resulting in higher income. However, there is severing lake of resources on production characteristics, cow’s performance, production constrains, in both intensive and extensive production system and further researches is required at this time.


The dairy industry  

Dairying originated from the Middle East, between 7000 and 6000 BC, and from there, milk consumption spread to the Mediterranean, Europe, and Indian subcontinent and to other parts of the world (Moran 2005). Dairy products are a very important source of food in Jordan due to their nutritive value. They are also the cheapest source of animal proteins and contribute highly in subsistence of a wide number of producers and families in the peri-urban and rural areas (AOAD 2003). The production and consumption of dairy products traditionally plays an important role to the population. In the last decades, consumption of dairy products increased at extremely high rates. Currently the per capita consumption of dairy products is 78 kg in Jordan (MOA 2006). Dairy production from total animals has also increased from 204 thousand tons in 2000 to 260 thousand tons in 2006 (MOA 2006; Hemme 2007). 


In Jordan, about 95% of the milk is delivered to dairy factories while the rest of the milk is informal. Informal milk in this case comprises of milk sold door to door, milk suckled by calves on-farm and milk consumed on-farm by the household  (Figure 2).

Source: Hemme 2007

Figure 2.  Delivered milk to the dairy industry

The first dairy factory was established in 1968, namely the Jordanian Dairy Company. From that time, dairy factories started processing milk from cows, sheep and goats. Currently, dairy factories can be classified into modern dairy factories, manual dairy factories, and home processing factories.


The modern dairy factories use fresh and powdered milk. In Jordan there are 21 modern dairy factories which are located mostly in the regions of milk production and surrounding the big cities. These factories process fresh milk from dairy farms in addition to the powdered milk into yogurt, laban, concentrated yoghurt (labaneh), cream, Baladi cheese, Jameed (Jameed is a fermented dairy product in the form of stone hard balls or other shapes produced by straining the heated buttermilk on cloth mesh bags, salting the formed paste by kneading, shaping and drying in the sun), flavoured-yogurt, ice cream, pasteurized milk and butter. The biggest three companies processing milk in Jordan are Hammodeh dairy, Danish-Jordanian dairy, and the Jordanian Dairy Company.


Generally; the dairy processing capacity of the modern dairy factories is already sufficient to manufacture all the fresh milk produced by farmers. 


The processing capacity of dairy factories in Jordan is 564 650 tons per day (Kelany 1997). About 95% of produced milk is delivered to dairy factories of which 52% is provided by the Dairy Breeders Association located in Zarqa region in the eastern part of the country and 16% comes from big dairy farms that own their dairy factories. Individual dairy farmers deliver 32% of processed milk. About 92.7% of delivered milk comes from dairy cows, while the rest comes from sheep and goats. Milk from sheep and goat is basically processed to white cultured cheese and Jameed.


The small dairy shops are a smaller size of milk processing factories (MOT 2004). They are scattered around the country, particularly in the northern and the middle of Jordan and process milk from cows, sheep and goats. Traditionally, these shops process different types of dairy products such as laban, labaneh, Jameed and white cheese which have a high preference by consumers (AAAID 2004). labneh (from Arabic laben, milk) is the name used in the Middle East and other Arabian countries for the semisolid dairy product made from set yogurt by removal of part of its whey (Yamani and Abujaber 1994).


Home production of dairy products is of regional importance. This type of processing is dominant for the small dairy farms. But it is more important for sheep and goats farmers.


Consumption, imports and exports of dairy products  

The consumption of milk and dairy products increased gradually during the last two decades. Table 2 shows the growth in dairy products consumption between 2000 and 2006.

Table 2.  Development in consumption of dairy products in Jordan


Production, tons



Dairy products consumption, tons

Self-sufficiency,  %

Per capita consumption, kg











































Source: MOA 2006

The local production however doesn’t satisfy the growth demand. To cover the market demand, big quantities of dairy products are imported. The major imported dairy products are shown in Figure 3.

Source: MOA 2006

Figure 3.  Imported dairy products for Jordan in 2006

The Jordanian self-sufficiency  percentage has significantly changed from 35% in nineties up to 62% in 2006 (Qureshi 1987, MOA 2006).


The per capita consumption in Jordan has increased from 62 kg in 2003, to 78 kg in 2006. This situation is different from that in neighboring Saudi Arabia, which has lower per capita milk consumption (of 55 kg) than Jordan (Al-Otaibi and Robenson 2002).   Consumption of dairy products has increased by 24% from 2005 to 2006 (Hemme 2007). While the average growth rate in domestic demand throughout the period 1996 - 2006 was 12%


In 2006, Jordan imported 21,363 thousand tons of powdered milk with value of 61.4 million USD. There is obvious growth in Jameed consumption. Jameed is a fermented dairy product in the form of hard stone balls or other shapes produced by straining the heated buttermilk on cloth mesh bags, salting the formed paste by kneading, shaping and drying in the sun (Shaker et al 2007 and Al Omari et al 2008). Jameed however is used in social activities and it’s highly acceptable by the consumer preference. Jameed industry is also developed recently in Jordan.  In 2006 the value of imported Jameed accounted to 2.5 million USD.


The large scale farms market their products directly to the factories based on day to day contracts. In Al-Duhlel region, farmers deliver their milk to dairy factories directly or via retailers. Dairy Breeders Association plays a strong role in marketing milk by finding channels between farmers and dairy factories.


The competition between dairy factories created a situation where factories sign long term contracts with farmers for milk delivery at a flexible and negotiable price which is in most cases not suitable for farmers. This competition is advantaged by extra capital, quality control, packaging, advertising and product differentiation (Mohsen 2001). Dairy processing factories are highly capitalized. Modern technology is used to process the milk. About 92.7% of the processed milk is cow milk, while the rest is from sheep and goat which is produced in spring. Based on these figures, locally produced dairy products represent nearly 55% of the total demand in 2006, while imported products comprise of the remaining 45%.


Based on the recent statistics (DOS 2006), the total dairy products imported value has increased during the last years reaching a value of 115 million USD in 2006.  The imported amounts of dairy products are shown in Table 3.

Table 3.  Annual imports and exports of selected dairy products in Jordan (in 1000 tons) 














Ghishta (Cream)




























Milk powder







Source: MOA 2006     NA: No available information

Jordan imports from Jameed and cheese are expected however to grow in the next years. The growth rate in imports has increased by 4% throughout the period 1996 - 2000.


Jordan exports of dairy products are increasing steadily.  The most common dairy products exported from Jordan are Jameed and white Hallomi cheese.  Jordan has exported cheese with value of 6.9 million USD in 2006. The main destination of Jordanian exports is the Gulf States. Exports from Jameed and the white Jordanian cheese are expected to grow in the next years. The total value for the Jordanian exports of dairy products estimated at 10.26 million USD in 2006.  

Feed resources 

The rangelands of Jordan are not sufficient for dairy cattle grazing but have been basically used for sheep, goat and camel grazing (ACSAD 1997). Six percent of the country’s area is considered as arable land with good potential for cultivation of cereals, vegetables and fruits.  However, fodder production is based on rain fed production system. Under these environmental conditions dairy industry in the country is essentially depends on imported fodders.


However, fodder production only covers 25% of livestock requirement. The total feedstuff requirements for the dairy cattle sector estimated at 354 thousand tons, table 4 shows the available fodders for the large animals in Jordan.

Table 4.  Available fodders for large animal

Fodder resources

Feed Unit, 1000 t


Natural pasture






Green fodders



Cereals straw (Tibbin)



Grain cereals



cereals processing by-products (bran)



Other by-products






Source: Modified after  Harb 2008

 Jordan has imported about 1.8 million ton of feedstuff and fodders required for the livestock sector. These include barley, maize, soybean meal, concentrates, fish meal, minerals and vitamin additives (Harb 2008). Local production of grains is less than the national requirements and it fluctuate from year to year depending on rainfall and market (Al Jassim et al 1998).


Generally, feeding amounts up to 50% of the total operating expenditures on dairy cattle (Bethard 1998). Dairy cows feeding representing the largest single cost item in most of dairy operations (Myer 2005).  Eventually; the cereals grains (corn, barley and soybean) are the most wildly used energy feedstuffs for dairy rations in Jordan. However there is a wide range of non conventional or alternative energy feedstuffs available that can utilized for dairy feeding worldwide. These sources of protein can ensure optimal rumen fermentation leading to a more efficient production of amino acids.


By products from the feed and food industries are generally excellent sources of protein, energy and minerals for ruminants (DiCostanzo 2003). The nutrient composition of by-products frequently is different from classical grains used to feed dairy cattle (Amaral-Phillips and Hemken 2006).


Having the fact that cows under the Jordanian conditions eat 700 gram of concentrate to produce one kg of milk could be attributed to the lower feed efficiency in the warm season than in the cold season as reported by Britt et al (2003) and Black and Custodio (1984). 


In addition to the scarcity of feed resources in the country, their prices have been increasing rapidly during the last two years. Feed price has been calculated based on a price of 30% soybeans and 70% corn.  The recent increase in feed price is attributed to the increase in the world market price for feed and to the slash of feed subsidies by the government.


Figure 4 shows the evolution of feed prices from 1996 to 2007. 

Source: Hemme 2007

Figure 4Feed prices in Jordan and the world

The International Farm Comparison Network (IFCN) feed indicator (0.7 * corn and 0.3 * soybean meal) prices was used to compare feed prices in Jordan with world market prices. This comparison shows that feed prices in the country have always been considerably higher than world market prices showing a reduced competitiveness of dairy production from feed-intensive systems in Jordan compared to feed exporting countries.


Milk-feed price ratio is shown in Figure 5.

Source: Hemme 2007

Figure 5.  Milk-feed price ratio in Jordan and the world

The milk-feed ratio is an indicator developed by the IFCN which estimates the extent to which feeding can be intensified on dairy farms on an economically sustainable basis in a country. Feed milk price ratio is designed to reflect the price of milk relative to the price of feed (Stallings 2002).  In general, when this Figure is above 1.5, it is said to be favorable, and feed-intensive production systems are encouraged.


The milk/feed price ratio for Jordan has been favorable throughout the period 1996 – 2006 and stayed above the ratio for the world market throughout this period, except in 2001.  There was an obvious change during 2006-2007, and this is attributed to the increasing in feed (corn and soybeans) prices resulting from a slash on subsidies for imported feedstuff. Since the milk price did not react proportionately, this ration suddenly dropped to a level below the world market price. If this ratio remains stable or drops, then Jordanian dairy farmers will need to depend on local and cheaper feedstuff in order to remain sustainable.


Available agricultural by-products could play a strong role in ruminants feeding (Adib 1969, Harb 1986, Harb 1989, Harb 1999). The available agricultural by-products in the country are illustrated in Table 5.

Table 5.  Available agricultural by-products in Jordan (2008)

Feed component

Amount, 1000 t

Wheat straw


Barley straw


Legumes straw


Vegetables and citrus by products


Poultry litter


Olive cake


Olive leafs and branches


Bears cake Brewer’s grain


Banana leafs


Tomato pomace 




Source: Modified after Harb 2008

There is shortage in water resources which compels a separation of dairy farming from crop production.  Cereal crops and fodders are grown in the highlands and in Jordan valley area. However, growing fodders in the desert area of the country is successful if ground water used for irrigation purposes.


Farmers buy a ready mix from the cooperative owned feed mill or from private feed mills. In large scale farms, farmers have on-farm mill and mix the feed ingredients with minerals and vitamin additives (Ghros 1989). There is shortage in roughage resources, and basically farmers depend on concentrates in feeding their cows. Straw is purchased from other cereal growing farmers after harvest in summer. While fresh alfalfa is purchased from Zarqa region or from Jordan valley.


Dairy sector analysis  

The International Farm Comparison Network (IFCN) dairy sector model was used to illustrate development and the recent changes in the dairy sector in Jordan. Results are shown in Table 6.  Milk production experienced tremendous growth at 5.4% between 2002 and 2007. The reason behind this is the growth in population and increasing number of visitors annually from the neighbouring countries, with increasing in per capita consumption of 6.7% annually.

Table 6. Annual changes between 2002-2007 in some parameters of the dairy sector in Jordan

Milk production (%) 


Cow number (%)


Milk yield per cow (%)


Total consumption (%)


Population (%)


GDP per capita (%)


Per capita consumption (%)


Milk delivered to dairy in 2007 (%)


Per capita milk consumption  (Kg/year/capita)


Self sufficiency in milk production in 2007 (%)


Population (million people)


Exports million US$ in 2006


Imports million US$ in 2006


Source: Adapted from Hemme (2008)

 The per capita of milk consumption increased during the last years. However, the self sufficiency of 57%  achieved in 2007 is still lower than in the neighbouring countries, for example Syria, where the self sufficiency is 93% (Alammouri 2006).


It is expected that milk production will continue growing in the next years. The main drivers for this development are the increase in dairy cows and total milk yield, and an increase in per capita consumption.




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Received 2 December 2008; Accepted 13 April 2009; Published 1 July 2009

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