As deer farmers greet a lift in venison returns, optimism is starting to creep in. Unlike velvet which has been going gangbusters, venison took a hit, falling to $5.50 a kilogram this time last year.
However, it has been defying seasonal fluctuations at nearly $2/kg above this mark - albeit far off the giddy peak of $11.30/kg in 2018.
Deer Industry New Zealand chief executive officer Innes Moffat said deer farmers had seen a subtle improvement in prices after Christmas, from low levels.
He said this had occurred during a normally low point of venison sales as European buyers do a stock-take after the game season and contemplate their needs for the year ahead.
"We saw contracts on offer in spring a little over $7 a kilogram. The venison schedule normally falls by more than $1/kg as we go to Christmas, but this year the schedule is $7.30-$7.40/kg and providing signals to suppliers that we are expecting to see that increase.''
Moffat said European customers had shown faith in the New Zealand venison business during Europe's lockdowns by placing orders without the certainty of sales. This was being backed up by solid demand in North America as the foodservice market recovers, while work by exporters to create new accounts there were beginning to show promise.
They also experienced significant orders at good prices from China for their New Year's celebrations.
"Definitely farmers are in a positive mood," Moffat said.