SCOTTISH VENISON is hoping to increase its share of the UK market thanks to a £20k funding boost from the Scottish Government.

Coinciding with Scottish Venison Day on September 4, the cash injection will enable market research to help venison producers and processors get a flavour of consumer demand for the game meat and identify commercial opportunities to ramp the sector up a gear.

This move also comes at a critical time with Brexit casting huge uncertainty over the future of Scotland’s sheep sector, which might prompt some farmers to explore other forms of livestock production in preparation for a no deal outcome.

Last year saw the launch of ‘Beyond the Glen’, a strategy for Scottish Venison which aimed to bring together both the wild and farmed sectors to build on their strengths and opportunities despite a challenging economic background.

The Scottish Venison Partnership has since reformed and relaunched as the Scottish Venison Association headed by an industry leadership group. Priority has been given to looking at wild deer health, which has been thoroughly examined by Moredun and Edinburgh University in a project funded by Scottish Government and Food Standards Scotland, with a final report to come in the next few months.

Deer health and handling skills training courses delivered by the Venison Advisory Service have been fully subscribed; and the British Deer Farms and Parks Association Conference comes to Scotland in early November as interest in deer farming continues.

Chairman of the Scottish Venison Association, Bill Bewsher, commented on the government funding announcement: “It is essential that we know exactly what is happening in the market, which is complex and changing, and as imports from New Zealand to the UK are declining. We believe we remain in a situation where UK demand outstrips supply, and where market growth is constrained by a shortage of product, wild or farmed.

“The research that we can now commission with the support of the Scottish Government will give us precise and current data on the state of the UK retail venison market,” he continued. “We hope also to undertake work across the catering/food service sectors as well as some basic, long overdue polling of consumer attitudes to venison to be repeated annually to assess developing trends.

“This market insight will be incredibly helpful in identifying commercial opportunities and move the whole sector up a gear – which is vital given the challenges ahead,” he stressed. “We are grateful to the Scottish Government for this support and also to the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society and their work with us as we move the sector forward.”

Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing MSP said: “Scotland is the largest producer of venison in the UK, producing around 3500 tonnes of wild venison and 70 tonnes of farmed venison each year. With our reputation for provenance and quality we know that there are exciting market opportunities that beckon to help further grow the sector. I am delighted therefore to be able to offer £20k funding to the Scottish Venison Association to provide relevant market insight and help the sector grasp the opportunities that are out there.”