Farm leaders welcome plan to revitalise the wool sector

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) has welcomed the release of a new report aimed at making the strong wool sector more sustainable and profitable.

B+LNZ chairman Andrew Morrison says a healthy wool sector is important to many sheep meat producers.

The poor price for strong wool is consistently raised as an issue by many of our farmers, he said.

“We understand it has been a frustrating time and wool profitability is really challenging at the moment. 

“Meat processors have been great at responding to a diversity of markets and a diversity of products, and extracting value from co-products. The challenge is now to maximise sustainable production from this fifth quarter, being wool. ”

The newly-released report – Vision and Action for New Zealand’s Wool Sector – was developed by the Wool Industry Project Action Group and sets out three recommendations to help the strong wool sector grow and thrive:

  • Develop a market-focused investment case and strategic roadmap for the strong wool sector.
  • Establish the capability necessary to get the sector match fit and ready for the opportunities ahead.
  • Establish a governance and coordination capability.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said the wool sector has been in a long-term decline over recent decades, made worse by the global trade disruption caused by Covid-19.

“While the Project Action Group’s report paints a grim, but accurate, picture of a sustained lack of investment and breakdown of wool industry structures, it outlines a vision for the sector and a way forward. 

“I now want to see the sector step up. There’s no single idea or government policy to solve the wool sector’s problems. For this work to have real impact, greater participation and ownership by the wool sector is needed. Our challenge now is to bring the people who are really going to shift the dial together and connect them with the support they need to succeed.”

The Prime Minister and Mr O’Connor last week announced they were bringing forward $84 million of SFF Futures funding for innovative and creative projects, to support delivery of our Fit for a Better World – Accelerating our Economic Potential Roadmap.

Mr O’Connor expects many innovative wool projects can benefit from this increase in available funding.

“By way of example, today I’m pleased to announce SFF Futures support for Woolchemy NZ Limited, an innovative New Zealand company that aims to transform wool into something more valuable, using sustainable, environmental and ethical processes.  Woolchemy will receive almost $80,000 to investigate a sustainable, intelligent non-woven textile that incorporates New Zealand strong wool for use in nappies.

“Businesses like AgWool are reimagining the traditional strong wool supply chain, and organisations like Lanaco and the Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand are innovating to find new and high-value uses for strong wool.”

You can read the Action Group’s full report and learn more about getting involved here.

The Wool Industry Project Action Group (PAG) was formed out of the 2018 Wool Summit and the subsequent work of the Wool Industry Working Group. The purpose of the group is to be a catalyst for change in the New Zealand wool sector – with a particular focus on strong wool – to:

  • help the sector identify developing global opportunities for consumer products made from natural fibres, particularly wool, in a uniquely New Zealand way;
  • enable the sector to understand where investment and collaboration is required to respond to these emerging opportunities and what the sector and government roles should be;
  • through these actions, see the demand for high-quality wool from New Zealand farmers increase and the profitability and viability of sheep farming in hill country New Zealand strengthened.

Action Group members:

  • John Rodwell Independent Chair – farming and investment banking perspective
  • Kate Acland Strong wool farmer – farming perspective
  • Paul Alston Chief Executive Officer, Cavalier Bremworth – manufacturer
  • Andy Cooper Science Impact Leader, AgResearch – research and development
  • Grant Edwards General Manager, PGG Wrightson Wool – broker and exporter
  • Paul Ensor Fine wool farmer – farming perspective
  • Sandra Faulkner Strong wool farmer – farming perspective
  • Steve Williamson General Manager Creative, NZ Merino Company and Studio ZQ – marketing and consumer perspectives (subsequent meetings)
  • Peter Whiteman Managing Director, Segard Masurel (NZ) Ltd – exporter

At B+LNZ,  chairman Andrew Morrison says wool has been important to the beef and lamb sector historically and – in light of sustainability concerns globally –

“ … there are emerging opportunities. Wool will continue to be important to our sector and play a part in lifting on-farm profitability.  

“We welcome the market-led approach set out in the report and encourage anyone in the value chain to think about their role in the strategy. We’ll be doing the same.” 

Information about the Vision and Action for New Zealand’s Wool Sector report is here: https://www.mpi.govt.nz/about-us/our-structure/government-advisory-groups/wool-industry-project-action-group

Source:  Minister of Agriculture; B+LNZ

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