SCOTLAND'S production of farmed venison is lagging behind UK consumers' growing appetite for consistent year-round supplies of the meat – and the likely outcome is that, unless more farmers get onboard, imports will have to double over the next five years.

With Scottish Venison Day approaching on September 4, the Scottish Venison Partnership has once again highlighted the economic opportunity for Scotland's conventional livestock producers to make the switch to deer.

SVP estimates that total annual UK venison production is now around 3800 tonnes, around 70% of which comes from Scotland’s wild red deer cull, with other species, Scottish farmed and wild, and farmed from the rest of the UK, making up the other 30%.

However, as of 2015, imports from New Zealand stood at around 17,000 carcase equivalents, circa 900 tonnes, with additional product coming into the UK from Poland, Ireland, Spain and other European countries.

SVP chairman Bill Bewsher said: “The UK continues to import around one third of the venison that it consumes, and we export to Europe about one third of what we produce – mostly venison from roe deer and late season red from stags, although this can vary subject to fluctuations in the Euro exchange rate.

“We import farmed venison because as yet the UK cannot produce enough volume from farmed stock which gives consistency in terms of age, colour, eatability and conformation of the meat.”

After years of being excluded from the farm support system, Scottish deer farmers are also eligible for the Basic Payment, while the Scottish Government has also been supporting initiatives such as the Deer Farm and Park Demonstration Day Programme.

But the resultant uptake from farmers isn't keeping pace with the market. SVP estimates around 10% sales growth year on year, which will take UK venison consumption from 3800 to more than 6000 tonnes by 2021. But if domestic production only increases by 5% per annum, imports will be double from what they are now, and will account for almost 50% of UK venison consumption by 2021.

Mr Bewsher said: “Our latest estimates are that the UK production capacity, wild and farmed, will total some 4800 tonnes by 2021, of which up to one third may be exported. To fulfill UK market demand this would mean importing almost 3000 tonnes, which is clearly good news for New Zealand’s deer industry and for venison producers in Europe.”

Scottish Venison Day is a focal point for the Scottish Venison sector, and those who produce, stock, sell or serve Scottish venison are encouraged to raise the profile of the product at this time, although, with increasing demand and a growing market, venison is no longer seasonal in availability.

A number of the bigger Scottish deer forests, important wild venison producers through the stag and hind seasons, are likely also to find themselves in the firing line to pay business rates from which they have been exempt since 1995. That exemption has now been removed under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016.

Mr Bewsher added: “Deer management covers many facets, not least deer welfare and maintaining a deer herd in good health, ensuring that deer numbers are sustainable in terms of the environment and other land uses, providing employment and, not least, ensuring supply of a healthy food. A study undertaken by PACEC consultants in 2014 found that deer management in Scotland overall contributes an estimated £140 million each year to the Scottish economy and supports 2500 full-time jobs.”

For more information about Scottish Venison see