Early start to strong velvet season

Early start to strong velvet season

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Velvet marketers say a good spring, with plenty of pasture growth, meant the antler harvest this year began about two weeks earlier than past years. By mid-December about two-thirds of the anticipated 725-tonne 2018/19 crop had been harvested.

Deer Industry NZ Asia markets manager Rhys Griffiths says buying activity began strongly in late-October, with prices for the traditional Korean styles fully firm on last season’s close.

“Since then we have seen some adjustment in price relativities between grades, but exporters have done a great job of holding the line. Overall prices to farmers are still very strong,” Griffiths says.

PGG Wrightson velvet manager Tony Cochrane says there is good demand for the Chinese styles -- the spiker and regrowth – that are now starting to come forward, with prices up on last season’s close.

CK Exports managing director Colin Stevenson says it has been a good season so far, with increased volumes coming in from farmers, being sold, paid for and shipped.

“We are holding no stocks in store and are enjoying strong demand at good prices from a wide spread of buyers,” he says.

Both Stevenson and Provelco general manager Ross Chambers highlight the fact that close to 90 per cent of the velvet cut by 20 November was Super A grade, a percentage that has been increasing year by year. It reflects the great strides farmers have been making in breeding antler for size and style.

This suits the processing systems used by healthy food manufacturers in Korea, but they say it’s not well suited to the traditional oriental medicine trade which is based on the sale of sliced velvet. The smaller B-grade sticks are better suited to this because they hold their shape and structure when they are sliced.

Chambers says every customer has a preferred style they prefer to buy.

“They want what they want, so as sellers we do our best to provide them with this, at the best price we can achieve for our farmer suppliers.”

Griffiths says that at the start of each season there is always some apprehension among buyers and sellers as they try and agree on a price level. Both want to ensure that the level struck is fair and likely to be sustainable across the season.

“But despite this, the reality is that overall velvet prices have been strong for nearly a decade now. That reflects the determination of the main sellers to get the best possible prices for their farmer suppliers,” he says.

“They have the confidence to do this because they know there’s a steady stream of new customers – healthy food product manufacturers -- visiting New Zealand to see the industry for themselves and to secure supply.

“Some of them come with their marketing people and camera crews to get photos and video of deer in our fabulous landscape. Healthy food products based on velvet and its New Zealand provenance are very trendy in Korea at present … we are all hoping that it’s a trend that stays around for a very long time.”

Slices of the highly-prized waxy “jelly tips” of NZ velvet photographed in China. Smaller sticks of velvet are better suited to slicing than the large Super A grades preferred by healthy food manufacturers in Korea