1 Dec 2023

Deer industry in limbo after China changes import rules

10:15 am on 1 December 2023
Red deer stag (Cervus elephus) in velvet, Westland, New Zealand

Currently, 65-75 percent of New Zealand's velvet crop was exported in a frozen form to China. Photo: 123rf

New Zealand's deer industry is waiting on more details from government officials in China about the future of sending frozen velvet there.

New Zealand exported around $70 million worth of deer velvet to China last year, most of which was frozen.

But China will stop accepting frozen velvet imports bound for its traditional medicinal market from May next year, deciding to use dried velvet only.

Initially China wanted to halt imports of frozen velvet immediately, but the Ministry for Primary Industries negotiated a transition period to allow deer velvet exporters to deliver this season's orders to China.

MPI had representatives in Beijing, negotiating with Chinese authorities to work out if New Zealand could continue sending frozen velvet to China into their different local markets outside of pharmaceuticals.

Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) chief executive Innes Moffatt said MPI was also trying to push out the deadline so the 2024-25 season was not affected, and to provide the industry more time to adjust.

"DINZ is working closely with MPI, processors and exporters to ensure we can modify our supply chain to continue to grow the industry. We do not expect it will dampen the ample opportunities for velvet exports as a bright spot for pastoral farmers in current market conditions.

"Velvet producers should plan for business as usual this season, working towards shipping frozen velvet as early as possible to meet the April 30, 2024 deadline."

Moffatt said there was additional processing capacity in New Zealand to enable the export of more dried velvet, but over time processing capacity may need to be scaled up.

Currently, 65-75 percent of New Zealand's velvet crop was exported in a frozen form to China, but DINZ said at least half was processed and re-exported to South Korea.

DINZ market manager for Asia, Rhys Griffiths said South Korea remained the largest consumer of New Zealand velvet, so whatever happened with China, demand would remain.

"South Korea may end up bringing more velvet in directly from New Zealand if an alternative pathway isn't found."

MPI said resolving the matter was a key priority.

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