Researchers in the Philippines say they are close to creating the world's first water buffalo clone to help the nation's impoverished farmers and lower the country's dependency on imported milk.

At the Agriculture Department's Philippine Carabao Center, executive director Libertado Cruz says the process of transferring cloned embryos is under way, and he expects some live clones within 10 months.

He says Philippine dairy carabao, or water buffalo, produce in average of about eight liters of milk a day, while some Indian water buffalos produce up to 35 liters a day.

Philippine researchers have used cells from the ear of Bulgarian water buffalos and fused it with the eggs of the local buffalo in the cloning process. The Bulgarian animals are descendants of the high yielding breed from India.

Right now animals that produce 17 liters of milk are being cloned, but when the process is finalized, the 35-liter "super buffalo" will be cloned.

Sperm from the cloned super buffalo will be used in an insemination program to create more high-milk-producing animals. The goal is increased milk production in the Philippines.

Dr. Cruz says greater milk production will help feed the nation, as well as give farmers a new source of income.

"The Philippines is about 99 percent import-dependent on milk. We are spending on the average about $450 to $500 million U.S. dollars every year just to import milk and dairy products," he explained. " It would be a social contribution if we can help our local farmers produce this milk in the Philippines."

Dr. Cruz says that since Dolly the sheep, the first cloned animal, entered the world in 1997 cloning has become less expensive and easier. This has allowed the Philippines to undertake the program.

The carabao is an essential part of rural life in the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia. In addition to producing milk, buffaloes are used as draft animals and for meat.