By Maja Burry of RNZ
A deer industry leader is worried farmers will start exiting the sector if venison prices don't improve.
Covid-19's impact on the restaurant trade worldwide has come as a major blow, with deer farmers now facing depressed prices for the second year in a row.
The latest figures from AgriHQ show in July 2021 venison average export values fell short of the five-year average of $13.75/kg by $3.67/kg, and was $1.28/kg below July last year.
Deer Farmers Association chairperson John Somerville said the organisation recently shared the concerns of many farmers in a letter to all of New Zealand's venison marketing company chief executives.
The viewpoint that farmers would stoically hold on until prices returned to viable levels was overly optimistic and not based on the on-farm reality, the letter said.
"I cannot overemphasise how low farmer sentiment is," Sommerville said.
"There is great concern among the deer farming community at all levels that large numbers will start leaving the industry if the prices don't improve considerably over this upcoming season and that will also continue to erode the breeding herd."
The association wanted to ensure everyone involved in the marketing and selling of New Zealand venison was doing their utmost to deliver higher farmgate prices as fast as is practical, he said.
While farmers understood the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns on traditional food service markets, members were increasingly frustrated that alternative markets had been slow to develop.
"To express these concerns bluntly, compared to other meat proteins post Covid 2020 and to date in 2021, venison's market performance and financial return to the producers has been abysmal."