Deer industry observers are picking improved venison prices for next season after the sell-off of surplus product in Europe put a dampener on the market in 2013-14.
The venison schedule is at a season low of $6.20 a kilogram for a 60kg stag, 5 per cent down on this time last year, said Deer Industry New Zealand venison marketing services manager Innes Moffat.
"Clearly, nobody feels that is satisfactory. We are at the bottom of the seasonal schedule cycle and expect prices to improve in coming months for the German game season.
"Information we are receiving from the marketing companies is there is a good level of demand for higher value and middle cuts, with European customers placing a steady amount of orders for this frozen product for consumption later in the year. Some price improvements are also being recorded."
A carry over of frozen stocks in most European markets - a legacy of reduced demand from the ongoing recession - weighed on the market in 2013.
"Everyone now feels that those surplus stocks have been consumed. This has been helped by lower prices which encouraged more German chefs and food manufacturers to buy more venison from New Zealand. I suppose we tried to sell 1.5 New Zealand seasons' production last year. Now inventory stocks are lower there is a more optimistic view that prices can improve as the year progresses."
Another area of optimism for venison was North America, said Moffat. A recovering United States has become New Zealand's biggest market for chilled venison in the last 12 months, taking more than 2000 tonnes of exports, almost double that of two to three years ago.
Marketing companies have also looked for opportunities in Asia for many years, with the Chinese market proving difficult to crack, in contrast to sheepmeat where exports are booming. Several venison processors have met compliance standards, but await official Chinese approval to export there, said Moffat.
"While sheepmeat is already a popular meat in China, venison consumption is not as widespread."
An industry Passion 2 Profit (P2P) initiative, seeking to improve venison returns through on-farm and marketing gains, has set up five small trial groups of farmers called advance parties with the aim of producing "more deer, heavier, earlier". These include groups in Mid and South Canterbury and the Mackenzie country.
New Zealand Deer Farmers' Association chairman Kris Orange, of Geraldine, said venison prices were probably, conservatively 20 per cent below levels required for on-farm profitability.
"You don't do any extra development. It limits the money you have to buy new stags, slowing the rate of productivity improvement. Some people see the low as an opportunity to increase deer numbers.
"Others are reviewing their whole business structure and the part deer plays in this. Deer compete very well on the hill, while down country, weaner deer for finishing combine well with dairy grazing or ewes. No longer are we really seeing farmers with 100 per cent deer."
On his own property, Orange said, farming dairy heifers and weaner deer in combination enabled him to carry more stock because of complementary grazing.
Passion 2 Profit will be one of the topics covered, along with the market outlook for venison and velvet and technical production advances, at the New Zealand deer industry conference at the Methven Resort Hotel from May 20 to 22.
The conference also includes a field visit to Keith and Dennise Hood's large-scale deer property Mt Hutt Station.
- Fairfax Media
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