Venison export volumes holding; prices down

Venison export volumes holding; prices down

Friday, December 18, 2020

Strong sales of venison in China are one bright light in otherwise stormy seas, says Deer Industry NZ venison marketing manager Nick Taylor.

“September was a good month, with exports to China of 225 tonnes, by far the highest monthly total since Covid-19 emerged. Our marketers have built demand at food service, especially from high-end hotels in China’s more cosmopolitan cities, but a lot of sales are going to new customers who are ordering trial shipments of the whole range of cuts,” he says.

“Importers are continuing to develop new butchery techniques, cuts and cuisines for venison that appeal to Chinese tastes. China has limited experience with venison cuisine, but because of the huge potential size of the Chinese market even a trial shipment can be quite large in the context of our total exports.”

Consultant chef Shen is helping Deer Industry NZ develop new recipes for venison that fit traditional Chinese cooking styles and flavour profiles. He’s part of a market development initiative that has seen China become our third-largest venison market

Taylor says China is now our third largest market for venison by value and volume. Germany and the United States hold first and second places.

Overall, venison prices are down because most of the prime, high-value cuts are normally sold at high-end restaurants in northern Europe and the United States. With restaurants closed or operating at reduced capacity because of Covid, marketers are having to find outlets for these cuts that normally are in strong demand in the run-up to Christmas.

“Marketers report that sales of chilled venison through retail outlets are continuing, but overall conditions in key venison markets remain challenging.”

Taylor says the average venison schedule for a prime 60 kg carcase weight stag is $5.58 per kilogram, compared with $8.54/kg this time last year.

“Farmers are working closely with their venison processors during this difficult time, so their venison is marketed in an orderly way. Because markets are not experiencing normal sales patterns for this time of year, marketers and their importing partners are needing to carefully manage product flows.”

In the United States, the restaurant sector continues to be particularly hard hit by the Covid pandemic.

“The EU is in the middle of its second lockdown, which has just been extended till 10 January. Initially schools were kept open, to reduce the economic impact, but this resulted in a slower decline in the infection rate than during the previous lockdown. On 14 December Germany tightened its lockdown measures including shutting schools.

Total venison export tonnages in the year to 30 September were only 2 per cent back on the 2019 year. Despite Covid-related disruptions to shipping, airfreight and customers, Statistics NZ reports that 11,300 tonnes of venison were exported.

However, value was back 20 per cent to $153 million, reflecting the fall in price of all premium proteins due to the impacts of Covid on restaurant sales and consumer confidence.

“Lower export prices have helped marketers and their market partners find new customers and boost sales to established customers. They’ve really been putting in the hard yards,” Taylor says.

“For example, some manufacturers of some retail items – such as pre-packaged cuts and pre-cooked ready meals – had moved away from New Zealand venison as prices rose over the last few years. Some of these firms have now been wooed back to NZ venison. Indeed, sales to Europe have increased this year as more volume has gone into this traditional market for boneless venison.”