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Kiwi and Korean deer farmers to work together

Kiwi and Korean deer farmers to work together

The deer industry plans to work with Korean deer farmers to further build demand for New Zealand deer antler velvet in South Korea, its largest market.

“The Korean Deer Breeders Association used to be opposed to velvet imports, but they now accept that by working together we can grow the pie for their farmers, as well as ours,” says Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) chief executive Dan Coup.

Long part of the allure of deer farming, with an Asian medical pedigree going back thousands of years, velvet has recently stepped into the modern era.

“In South Korea there is growing demand among affluent consumers for health foods and tonics based on traditional ingredients like velvet and ginseng. Because of New Zealand’s reputation for natural, safe and quality-assured product, respected Korean food companies see us as the ideal source of velvet,” Mr Coup says.

DINZ estimates 20 per cent of New Zealand’s velvet production goes into health-foods and tonics in South Korea … a market segment that was near non-existent 10 years ago. The retail value of these products is now more than US$100 million a year, with one children’s tonic alone taking around 8 per cent of NZ’s velvet production.

This new demand is one factor in the gradual increase in New Zealand farm gate prices for velvet from an average of $NZ60 a kilogram six years ago to nearly $NZ100 a kg in the season just ended. Other important factors include declining velvet production in Asia and North America, and increasing wealth in China.

Mr Coup says it is in the long-term interests of New Zealand deer farmers that the Korean deer farming industry prospers.

“Deer velvet plays an important part in the Korean culture. For example, many city folk like travelling to local deer farms to consume and buy antler products. Traditions like these help maintain market buzz and underpin demand ... they’re not the sort of thing that imported velvet could replicate.”

Velvet supply from Korean deer farms has always been insufficient to meet demand from the traditional Oriental medicine market and healthy foods industry. This shortfall became more acute when herds were badly impacted by an outbreak of foot and mouth disease four years ago.

“It’s in the interests of Korean deer farmers that this demand is increasingly being met by supply from New Zealand,” says Mr Coup.

“We offer animal welfare, biosecurity, food hygiene and traceability standards that can’t be matched by velvet suppliers anywhere else in the world. Also, our industry is well organised and able to work with the Korean Deer Breeders Association on projects that benefit us both.”

DINZ and exporters are very mindful of the free trade negotiations now underway between New Zealand and South Korea.

"South Korean government charges, in particular a 20 per cent import tariff and excise duty of around 9 per cent, are costing NZ farmers and Korean consumers dearly. Oriental medicine doctors and health food companies in South Korea share our view on this. It’s in all our interests to create a tariff-free pathway from the NZ producer to the Korean consumer,” Mr Coup says.


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