Deer velvet enjoying strong demand

Nov 18, 2021

The 2021/22 deer velvet season has opened on a strong note, with prices up 10 to 15 per cent on last season’s close.

Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) markets manager Rhys Griffiths says this reflects strong underlying consumer demand, as well as the concern of wholesalers and manufacturers to secure stock in advance of any possible Covid-related supply disruption.

Deer antler velvet, along with ginseng, are two of the most prized ingredients in Oriental medicine. In recent years there has been rapid growth in demand for NZ velvet for natural health products to combat fatigue and to boost immunity.  

Demand is strong from both South Korea, which has a suppression type approach to Covid-19, as well as China which is continuing its Covid elimination policies.

NZ Trade Commissioner Stephen Blair (centre) leading a Korean traditional ceremony held annually at the Seoul Herbal Market. Last year’s ceremony was cancelled due to Covid restrictions

To celebrate the Korean traditional oriental medicine sector, and as part of its Covid-19 recovery, DINZ last week participated in the annual Bojewon ceremony at the Seoul Herbal Market in Jeggi-dong.

“Bojewon is a charitable institution set up in 1392 to provide traditional oriental medicines to the poor. It is steeped in Korean cultural traditions and it is mark of the standing of NZ velvet in Korea that Seoul-based NZ Trade Commissioner Stephen Blair was asked to play a leading role in the ceremony on our behalf – the first foreigner to do so,” Griffiths says.

In addition to the traditional medicine sector, demand is growing in Korea from health food companies producing brand name products, many of them marketed on the basis of their NZ provenance.

“Many of these companies have reported strong sales during the important Chuseok holiday, also known as Korean Thanksgiving, which fell this year in late September. During Chuseok, people celebrate their ancestors, spend time with their families and participate in gift-giving as well as traditional customs. Luxury packs of velvet-based products are seen as prestigious gifts.”

In China, fears of possible supply chain disruptions have become a reality, with Dalian Port closed because of a further Covid outbreak. Griffiths says Dalian is the main port in China for the import of frozen food products and the only one that handles deer velvet.

“We hope China gets on top of this outbreak quickly, so our customers can restock in order to meet consumer demand. New Zealand is the only country that is permitted to export velvet to China, so continued supply is important for the many Chinese who purchase health products based on deer velvet,” he says.

Griffiths says the Dalian lock-down is creating logistical challenges, so he encourages farmers to communicate with their preferred buyers about their supply intentions. At times like this they are looking for as much certainty as they can get, he says.

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