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The latest incarnation, Vision and Action for NZ’s Wool Sector, was produced by the Wool Industry Project Action Group (PAG), chaired by Wanaka-based agribusiness man John Rodwell. Even he concedes that farmers will take plenty of convincing that this latest report won’t join its long list of predecessors and be left to gather dust on the shelf.
The PAG report sets out three key recommendations for revitalising the sector:
• Developing a market-focused investment case and strategic roadmap for the strong wool sector.
• Establishing the capability necessary to get the sector match fit and ready for the opportunities ahead.
• Establishing a governance and coordination capability.
Wool growers have heard these types of woolly ideas before. Is there any wonder they are cynical that this latest report will be any different to the myriad of others that have been produced in the past – including the infamous McKinsey Report from the dying days of the Wool Board?
Meanwhile, growers have seen strong wool prices slump 40% since the 1990s. Latest auction results for full fleece make grim reading. Good quality cross-bred, greasy wool is managing just $1.50/kilogram, which rises to $1.90/kg for “really good” clean wool – a price drop of between 35 - 40 % over the past quarter alone.
“We believe we are on the cusp of a natural fibre renaissance, led by more environmentally and socially conscious consumers, and that a new approach is needed,” the PAG report says.
Currently shearing for most strong wool growers is a cost and more of an animal welfare issue, given the low prices for wool, rather than a viable income stream.
As former Wool Board member Lochie MacGillivray told Rural News, if the strong wool sector’s fortunes can be resurrected, much of the knowledge and skill set to do this has already departed the industry and it would take an awful lot of effort to revive this.
MacGillivray also points out that the technology for the manufacture of strong wool has also fallen behind that of synthetics. He claims machines manufacturing nylon can operate at greater speeds than those for wool, which makes their products more competitive.
Unfortunately, the latest wool report looks like yet another glossy document that will sit on the shelf.