The deer industry wants to break its reliance on traditional markets, lift productivity and profits and extend its selling period into Europe.
Five major venison marketing groups are considering a collective agreement to explore new markets and establish a formal marketing entity.
New Zealand Deer Farmers Association chairman Chris Orange said they are also working with the Government to break into China and Asia through trade agreements, the aim being to to create competition with their European markets even if China does not want their prime cuts. The problem is that China has yet to give official registration to New Zealand venison plants as suitable suppliers.
There are opportunities to sell into Mainland China, Deer Industry New Zealand's venison marketing manager Innes Moffat said, "although exporters will need to identify appropriate cuts and treat each district as a separate market".
At the moment Alliance Group Timaru's $50 million deer slaughter plant, opened 18 months ago, is processing 210 animals a shift and working to capacity.
Mr Orange says the plant is an asset to Canterbury and believed several suppliers outside of the catchment are supplying it because it suited them more to do so. The attraction is a short turnaround from when deer arrive to when they are slaughtered. He couldn't think of any other plants that would be processing more than Timaru.
The bulk of venison processed there is exported to Europe diced, or is broken into seamed muscle groups for use in goulash, a rustic stew, or other traditional dishes. New Zealand marketers continue to promote export venison as farmed and superior to European venison.
The deer industry's latest slogan that promotes "Passion to Profit" aims to get producers to lift output through bigger carcasses and earlier fawning.
Two groups established in South Canterbury three months ago are part of farmer-driven initiatives to develop on- farm projects that will increase productivity and profit on farm.
Deer Industry New Zealand assists with funding and provides support to the groups, Mr Moffat said. "There is potential for great gains and methodology in the approach to planned development."
Topics covered could include growth rates for orphaned young deer, implementing animal health plans around conception, feeding regimes, genetics and overall farm systems. Outcomes from the projects will be shared among deer farmers.
These groups are not replacing Focus Farms
While Prices for New Zealand venison have eased in the past 12 months because there is a plentiful supply of wild venison in Europe, they are still on par with historical figures, Mr Moffat said.
Export figures are stable at around 15,000 tonnes and last season 1,800 tonne went to America, the largest amount ever.
Although venison exports are subject to the New Zealand dollar, Mr Moffat said the markets had recovered from the recession and many restaurants that de- listed New Zealand venison during that period, had signalled renewed interest.
- Straight Furrow