Fortuitous timing for venison industry

Blair Holgate.
Blair Holgate.
Several seasons of strong export returns have left New Zealand’s venison farmers well positioned to overcome the severe trade disruptions resulting from Covid-19, Rabobank animal proteins analyst Blake Holgate says.

Venison producers had enjoyed a good run in recent seasons with the industry benefiting from healthy export sales into both established and new venison markets, he said.

‘‘In the last five years we’ve seen significant export growth in the US, due in part to increased demand for venison as a component in pet food while we’ve also seen strong sales in long-standing European markets such as Germany and Belgium. In addition, the industry has been able to increase sales into emerging venison markets like China, with exports to this market growing rapidly particularly throughout the course of 2019.’’

Venison prices reached an historical peak of $11.50/kg in 2018 and, while prices had drifted lower in 2019, the industry was in a healthy position moving into 2020.

‘‘Many in the industry started this year with strong resilient businesses and this will be important as the industry navigates what is now likely to be a challenging next 12 months following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.’’

Impacts of Covid-19 on the global food service sector had significantly affected venison demand.

The fall in global demand for venison had quickly translated into lower New Zealand venison exports.

‘‘Export volumes for the month of March 2020 were down 30% on last year, with the United States the most affected market, dropping by 55% on the same month in 2019.

‘‘Prices for New Zealand venison have also fallen with the current stag price sitting at $7/kg, 20% on the same month in 2019.

‘‘‘Fortuitously for New Zealand producers, March is typically the end of the venison production season with most young venison processed from September through to March and most farmers will have moved most of their finishing stock off by now so they can focus on removing cull hinds through the autumn and winter.’’

The challenges for the industry stemming from Covid-19 would evolve as the year progressed.

‘‘We’re currently seeing some countries across the globe slowly begin to relax restrictions on the movement of their people and, as a result, the food service industry will begin to open up.

‘‘While this should help boost venison demand, we also expect the virus to have longer-lasting economic impacts.’’

Despite the likelihood of lower demand for venison in coming months, Mr Holgate said sales of manufacturing venison and the European game season would help ensure a base level of demand.

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