Extent of Covid-19 impact on deer stalking sector revealed

SCOTLAND’S estates could lose £9 million over the coming 12 months if no stalking takes place during the coronavirus restrictions, a new survey has found.

More than 100 businesses responded to the poll by the Association of Deer Management Groups (ADMG), Lowland Deer Network Scotland (LDNS) and the Scottish Venison Association (SVA).

Those estates – representing just under one third of Scotland’s total – are faced with losing £2.5 million of income.

If no stalking or only limited stalking takes place then the culling plans of 43% of the respondents would be affected.

Limited or no stalking would also reduce the amount of venison entering the food chain from 49% of the estates.

Richard Cooke, chairman of the ADMG, said: “This survey gives us some very valuable insight into the potential impact on deer management businesses if there were to be no let stalking in the coming season due to the fallout from Covid-19.

“Our sample represents just under one third of the sector, so the consequential loss of let stalking being impossible can be estimated at around £9 million total before any impact from downgraded venison sales is also taken into account.

“This is of course the worst-case scenario – full cancellation – and hopefully the impact will be less if the Scottish Government roadmap out of lockdown proceeds as hoped.

“However, there will undoubtedly be some effect due to cancelled bookings and the difficulties of organising Covid-safe stalking with guests.

“Whatever the degree, we must expect disruption and significant economic damage including potential job losses, both part time and seasonal, as survey respondents have flagged up.

“We must also recognise the loss to the wider rural economy from the income that this type of sporting tourism generates.”

Cooke added: “As for venison, the processors have lost all their restaurant, food service and catering customers and may be sitting on unsold stock from last season.

“While these markets should recover, it would be unrealistic to expect that in the short term and they are therefore facing a situation of reduced demand and extra cost due to the need to incorporate social distancing within their processing operations.

“The effect on price remains to be seen.

“The SVA, supported by ADMG, is developing a recovery plan for discussion with the Scottish Government and ADMG is also working with other bodies to advise Scottish Government in the provision of advice on how to conduct deer management and other outdoor activities with social distancing taken into account.

“ADMG’s firm advice must be to take planned culls in full to avoid future problems with deer numbers but a high degree of cooperation with processors will be necessary to ensure that the venison supply chain can remain operable throughout the coming months.”

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