Brace yourself, a new normal lies ahead

Dec 16, 2021

An end-of-year message from our chief executive Innes Moffat

2021 will leave most of us with mixed emotions. Velvet prices have been great, there is plenty of feed in most districts and few deer farmers have been laid low by Covid.

That’s the good. But, looking back, we can see that the Covid-19 pandemic has tainted many aspects of our lives and farming businesses.

Innes Moffat

I have spoken to many deer farmers who are heavily reliant on income from venison and are financially struggling and many more who have taken a significant hit.

The impact of Covid on venison prices in 2020 laid bare the industry’s reliance on restaurant consumption. While prices are now on the path to recovery, prices are still now where near where they need to be.

If there is a silver lining to that particular cloud, it has been the opportunity to build new markets. Retail and on-line sales of venison in North America expanded rapidly this year from a low base and China has become our third largest venison market. Venison marketing companies have also enjoyed success in markets as diverse as Sweden and the United Arab Emirates.

We need venison prices to improve significantly. Demand from the rebounding food service sector will help with that, but the challenge for marketers will be to make sure the prices being achieved in these new markets will provide a sustainable return for deer farmers in the years to come.

It’s in all our interests to build and nurture profitable year-round demand from markets that neither boom nor bust. It won’t be easy, but it’s essential for the long-term profitability of the venison industry.

Demand for velvet has also been influenced by Covid-19. Retail lockdowns in our main markets have disrupted sales to consumers, but there’s no better time than the middle of a pandemic to be selling a product that is known for its health giving properties.

Shipping and container shortages, along with port shutdowns, have the potential to hurt exports. This appears to have motivated velvet buyers this season to source their supplies and ship them as promptly as possible.

Advance Parties and their associated regional workshops, NZDFA velvet competitions, and stag sales are part of the social glue that binds our industry together. Unfortunately under Covid there have been much fewer events that bring people together. Sure, we have become used to communicating on Zoom and other platforms, but nothing beats a real face-to-face.

The roll-out of VelTrak and the upgrade of the DINZ website have gone ahead. A big thanks to everyone who has worked with the implementation of VelTrak, especially those who were patient while dealing with the inevitable teething issues. The deer industry now has a world-leading electronic track and trace system for velvet that plays a vital role in ensuring we can respond rapidly if there is a biosecurity or food safety incident.

2021 has seen drought replaced with floods, I’m writing this as Canterbury suffers another deluge.  Adverse weather events will become more common and we need the infrastructure in our rural communities to ensure that our productive sector can continue.

Our predictions for 2022: ongoing issues with shipping and freight affecting our ability to get product to our international markets; more Covid disruption globally as new variants emerge and spread, but a growing ability for businesses everywhere to reopen and operate as normally as possible, regardless of the pandemic.

Expect venison prices to steadily recover and velvet prices to stay on track.

Globally, fiscal stimulus measures are likely to be quickly unwound to get inflation back into the bottle – with consequences for consumer spending and the speculative highs that we are seeing for energy and some food products.

On the political front, expect thunder and lightning around farm greenhouse gas emissions, fresh water regulation and biodiversity as the government seeks to rush through reforms before we re-enter election mode in 2023.

I hope that you are able to find some time to have a break with family and friends over the summer to recharge your batteries. That energy will be needed in the year ahead.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Innes Moffat
Chief Executive

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