Friday, July 1, 2022

EDITORIAL: Why is wool languishing?

Last week’s Shearing and Woolhandling World Championships showcased the best of that industry.

World Champion John Kirkpatrick, profiled on page 20, epitomises what it takes to excel as a high-performance athlete.

It’s not only the training and the hard work that makes a champion, it’s being able to find that edge, in his case well-chosen equipment, that will give him that extra half a percent, which is all it takes to put you over the top.

Doing the same thing as everyone else will only get you to their level. To beat them you have to do something differently.

This is a mindset the wool industry as a whole has been grappling with but perhaps failing to master. Once again strong wool prices are languishing and questions are being asked about its future. Farmers are being told to keep their wool in their sheds until prices improve.

I’ve asked this question before here but it’s worth repeating: why is wool not a highly-valued product that demands a premium for farmers? We all know that synthetic carpet has overtaken wool as the go-to fibre for the floor.

We also know there has been a long succession of research projects funded to find new, unique uses for wool. Some have been a success, some have slipped away quietly but what they haven’t done is added up to being a fix for the fibre.

It’s heartening to hear that yet more research is going into novel uses for wool and those behind it are confident there will be positive outcomes. Farmers could perhaps show some more interest. They’ve been asked to fund research and promotion in the past and declined. Have they given up on wool or are they simply happy to ride the commodity cycle?

A week after the highs of the shearing world champs, it’s disappointing to see that wool, clipped from animals by skilled athletes, is quietly being stacked in the corner to wait for the market to turn.

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