Cash injection for venison sector to help survive Covid crisis

Suppliers and producers of Scotland’s acclaimed wild venison have received a £50,000 cash injection from the Scottish Government to help ensure the sector’s survival through the coronavirus crisis.

Scotland's venison industry has been hit hard by restaurant closures and the collapse of the events sector due to coronavirus restrictions
Scotland's venison industry has been hit hard by restaurant closures and the collapse of the events sector due to coronavirus restrictions

The funding, which is being delivered through the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society and Scotland Food & Drink, is the first project to come through the new industry-led Food and Drink Recovery Plan for Scotland’s farming, fishing and food and drink businesses.

Market data shows that venison sales through UK retail and grocery channels remain strong, increasing by 10 per cent in the past year.

However, the supply chain has been badly hit by the virtual collapse of the restaurant, catering and hospitality sector due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Export orders have also been hit hard by Brexit uncertainty.

Local sales of venison and mail order have been growing but not enough to compensate for lost sales.

Scotland is home to around one million deer – an estimated 650,000 red deer, plus roe, sika and fallow.

Around 100,000 are culled each year to guard against overpopulation, which can lead to animals starving and suffering, and reduce environmental damage due to overgrazing.

The majority of the carcasses go into the human food chain as venison.

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Industry leaders have welcomed the support, which they say is vital to prevent serious economic and environmental impacts.

The money will go towards a targeted marketing campaign, promoting venison as a healthy and sustainable Scottish meat.

Bill Bewsher, chairman of the Scottish Venison Association, said: “It isn’t a silver bullet, but we hope it can assist in keeping supply chains moving for this season.

“The return of the restaurant, hospitality and events sectors will come, and that is crucial, and the sooner the better for all concerned – but we cannot wait for that before taking action.”

Announcing the funding, Scottish rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said: “I recognise the difficulties that the sector has had to endure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The £50,000 grant – part of the wider £5 million food and drink recovery programme – will support the wild venison sector to mitigate the effects of Covid-19.”

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