Chilled venison markets and season growing

Overall venison production is down, but sales of chilled venison are growing, boosting returns to New Zealand deer farmers.

The average published AP stag schedule peaked a fortnight ago at $8.87 a kilogram, marginally ahead of last season’s spring peak of $8.63.

Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) venison marketing manager Marianne Wilson says this headline price does not fully reflect the underlying market improvement, because of the firming of the Kiwi dollar against the Euro. At Euro 0.65c, the dollar is well above its 10-year average and 8 per cent up on the same time last year.

Speaking to a meeting of NZ Deer Farmers Association (DFA)  branch chairs in Wellington last week, Wilson said that with farmers rebuilding their herds, export venison tonnages were down 11 percent in the year to August 2016. Total value was down 2 percent.

“In contrast, chilled venison export volumes were up 7 percent and returns up 16 percent as marketers increased sales outside the European autumn market,” she said. “As a result, the shoulders of the peak chilled demand period are spreading from spring into late summer.”

The United States (671 tonnes) and Germany (559 tonnes) remain the largest chilled markets, but if Belgium and the Netherlands were treated as a single market, it would be the biggest (853 tonnes).

Wilson says traditionally venison export sales have been heavily reliant on the German game trade which is highly seasonal, with demand and prices peaking for the supply of chilled venison in September/early October. It has long been a deer industry goal to build year-round demand for venison at chilled prices.

“In addition to our investment in the Passion2Profit programme, venison market development remains the single largest area of DINZ expenditure. At the direction of the venison marketing companies, DINZ undertakes venison promotion in priority markets, and this year put $400,000 into joint promotions with individual marketers,” she says.

“These promotions are quite varied depending on the market and the customer base being targeted and are often substantial campaigns. Priorities for companies include food service in the US or year-round supply to German retail outlets.”

Wilson notes that what New Zealand farm-raised venison has to offer is increasingly resonating with influential chefs and a new generation of consumers who are open to new culinary concepts.

“Add to that a growing preference for grass-fed red meat in important markets and an insistence by gate keepers on food safety and quality assurance standards which New Zealand farmed venison can deliver.”

A side-effect of increasing sales of chilled is a 30 percent fall in the supply of frozen venison to Germany. There have been some complaints about this from German distributors reported in the media.

”While our venison marketing companies don’t like disappointing anyone in the market, the reality is that they are prioritising those customers who take chilled venison year-round at better prices than the frozen trade can offer. It reflects the success of the industry in diversifying markets.”

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