4 Feb 2013

Sth Korean demand underpins deer velvet prices

6:38 am on 4 February 2013

Growing demand in New Zealand's main deer velvet market, South Korea, is underpinning above- average prices that farmers are getting.

Velvet, derived from the antlers of stags, is the second highest income earner for deer farmers, after venison.

Deer velvet has been used in traditional oriental medicine for thousands of years.

Prices have been up and down in the past few decades.

But Deer Industry New Zealand says velvet is currently selling for about $100 a kilo frozen, compared with an average of about $80.

Chief executive Mark O'Connor said velvet producers have had several good years, reflecting expanding use in New Zealand's biggest market.

Mr O'Connor said the South Korean market is changing from a very traditional market to adopting a more modern approach to wellness.

"We're working with very large Korean companies now who are interested in developing products, having them registered over there in a healthy, functional food classification which is the appropriate way to register these products."

Mr O'Connor said the companies want to develop more and more consumer branded products.

He says the future of the industry is in north Asian markets - South Korea and China is also becoming increasingly important.

Deer Industry New Zealand last week moved quickly to reassure farmers and regulators after concerns raised in sporting circles about a growth substance in deer velvet which is on the banned list in some sports.

The deer industry says natural velvet products contain only low levels of the substance, which is also found in many other animal products including milk.