Venison prices looking good for NZ deer farmers

Dan Coup
DINZ chief executive Dan Coup.
 Venison prices to farmers haven’t looked this good in late February since 2009, when the average stag venison schedule price was $8.10 a kilogram and the Kiwi was worth a miserable 47 Euro cents.

Eight years later at what is traditionally the low point of the season, the average published schedule is $8.03 a kg and a Kiwi is worth a strapping 67 Euro cents.

Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) chief executive Dan Coup says this follows a steady increase in venison prices over recent years, despite very unfavourable exchange rates.

“Falling NZ venison production is one of the main drivers of this improvement. Also important is increased out-of-season consumption which is supported by co-ordinated investment in market and product diversification by exporters and DINZ.

“We have an industry strategy to diversify sales away from the traditional, highly seasonal European game trade into markets that are willing to pay a premium for year-round supply of tender, chilled farm-raised venison. The industry seems to be making some progress on that.

“Each year we see a small increase in the proportion of our venison that is exported chilled. Last year it reached 18.3 percent by volume and nearly 33 percent by value – up a couple of percentage points on the year before.

This trend has been assisted by a steady increase in the volume and value of chilled exports to Canada and the United States, says Coup.

“While continental Europe remains our biggest market for frozen and chilled venison, it is steadily losing its dominance, as sales to North America grow. Chilled exports to the US and Canada  last year jumped 16.5 percent by volume and nearly 18 percent by value at a time when New Zealand’s total chilled venison exports were down seven percent by volume and five percent by value,” he says.

In addition to strong demand for chilled venison across established and new markets, prices to farmers are also being sustained by growing demand for co-products.

“Demand from Asia for tails, pizzles and sinews remains strong. Also, sales of deer bones and offals to the premium petfood market are adding to the income stream, which is reflected in the venison schedule price farmers receive.”

In the 2015/16 year (to 30 September) venison production fell to 318,000 animals, the lowest level in more than 20 years. This followed four years in which the kill ranged between 407,000 and 431,000 animals, of which up to 54% were females.

“The sudden fall in the kill last year has been followed by a further decline in the first months of the 2017 season. This reflects falling breeding hind numbers for much of this decade, followed by a recent trend among farmers to stabilise or rebuild their hind numbers,” says Coup.

“Slaughter statistics are now showing hinds making up less than 50% of the kill, which is nice, and probably a sign of herd rebuilding, but we need to bear in mind that this kill percentage is also affected by farmer decisions around retaining velvet animals.

“Anecdotally, producer confidence around venison is pretty good and this is being supported by the contracts on offer from processors providing good information on prices over coming months.”

In the meantime he says exporters are competing for supply with forward contracts that assure farmers of attractive prices over coming months and exporters that they can fulfil orders from their key customers.

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