Friday, July 8, 2022

Velvet market holds firm

The velvet market has been firm for the fourth season in a row. That is a great achievement for any New Zealand primary product and especially for velvet. “This is our fourth season of relative price stability around $100/kg, which is very pleasing, although of course velvet producers would always be happier with more,” Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) velvet marketing manager Rhys Griffiths said. Previously characterised by price volatility and some “colourful” companies, NZ velvet has been able to diversify away from oriental medicine and from reliance on the one main market, South Korea. However, the industry attracted some out-of-the-blue publicity at the end of January, when PGA golfer Vijay Singh and NFL Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis were accused of taking an oral IGF-1 hormone supplement extracted from velvet. DINZ explained to the world’s media that velvet was not an illegal performance-enhancing drug but IGF-1 was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. However, Drug Free Sport NZ chief executive Graeme Steel warned athletes to be extremely careful of deer velvet. AgResearch said IGF-1, an insulin-like growth factor, was present naturally in many every-day foods and there was more IGF-1 in a standard glass of low-fat milk than in three 300mg capsules of deer velvet.

DINZ said the United States supplement was extracted from refined velvet to less than 1%, significantly changing its form into an under-the-tongue spray.

Long-time deer velvet ambassador Sir Bob Charles has suspended his endorsement of Silberhorn capsules, prompting company director Ian Carline to say the media had “hounded a gentleman”.

While disappointed with the slur on velvet, DINZ did observe that money couldn’t buy the type of publicity received in the US especially, where the market had little knowledge of velvet previously.

Griffiths said perhaps 20% of New Zealand’s $30 million annual velvet exports were now going into the health-food sector, typified by the ProVelco pre-season contract (at $100/kg) with the Korea Ginseng Corporation.

Korea takes about 65% of our 200 tonnes of dried exports, compared with 80% or more a few years ago.

The health-foods sector products were mainly liquids and were aimed at younger consumers, possibly to combat fatigue, Griffiths said.

Although the growing and harvesting season was short, velvet was consumed year round and that would be helped by these new elixirs, he said.

NZ producers could gear up production if requested, evidenced by great weight and quality gains in recent years, he said.

“International buyers like the stability in our supply but they also want some volume upside.” 

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