Much of the New Zealand strong wool (wūru) tagged for export is more likely destined for disposal in the mop-up of WoolWorks’ flooded Napier wool-scouring plant.
But international markets can be assured that the reputation of NZ premium wool will not be compromised despite the country’s largest wool-scouring facility being significantly affected by flooding, WoolWorks chief executive Nigel Hales said.
The company is boosting processing capacity at other sites as it assesses the damage to its facility at Awatoto in Hawke’s Bay and plans for extensive remedial work to the plant following Cyclone Gabrielle.
Hales said a significant amount of the scoured and greasy wool stored at the site and held on behalf of wool exporter customers has been contaminated by the floodwaters (wai waipuke) and will likely be disposed of.
Meantime the company’s upgraded backup plant at Clive in Hawke’s Bay and its Washdyke plant near Timaru are primed to run at full capacity.
“WoolWorks is focused on ensuring that the volume of wool that would normally be scoured at Awatoto can be processed in a timely manner by optimising the capacity at our other two plants,” Hales said.
WoolWorks scours 80% of the wool produced in NZ. About 20% of the North Island’s wool is produced in the cyclone-affected regions.
Over the coming 12 months WoolWorks expects to be processing a total of 103 million kilograms of greasy wool, a similar volume to what the company has achieved annually for the past five years.
“That will mean we will be able to continue to process the majority of the market’s needs before the end of the calendar year,” Hales said.
The company is also developing options to get wool out of Hawke’s Bay and south to Timaru to scour North Island wool that exceeds the capacity of WoolWorks’ Clive site.
“We are working with other interested parties on a coastal shipping solution to get a viable alternative service operating as quickly as possible.”
Coastal shipping for both Gisborne and Napier to Timaru would do much to address the current logistics challenges, Hales said.
The company is working with a number of farmers who have not been able to get wool off farms.
“We are working with all of the supply chain and government and regional authorities to mitigate the impact of this.
“The East Coast is an important agricultural region for NZ and represents a large portion of the NZ strong wool clip.
“Due to road and rail logistics being greatly affected in and around the East Coast and into Hawke’s Bay, we are working with key wool entities, the government and other agricultural producers to provide alternative freight options for getting wool out of the region.
“We have also been keeping our wool exporter clients appraised of the situation.”
Scoured wool stored at the Clive plant and at WoolWorks’ storage site in Ahuriri in Napier was not damaged and is available as a buffer in the interim.
Big Save NZ managing director Tom McKimm has made a large dry storage facility in Napier available to WoolWorks.
“This will provide valuable additional storage.
“It is gestures like this that give us confidence that the NZ sector can address the challenges at hand.”