Thursday, April 25, 2024

Wool revival coming

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South Island farmer Kate Acland says the Government’s report on the wool industry is a chance for the sector to come together and realise its potential.
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The Vision and Action for the wool sector put together by the Government-appointed wool industry Project Action Group suggests New Zealand is on the cusp of a natural fibre renaissance being led by more environmentally and socially conscious consumers. 

A new approach is needed to seize the opportunity and turn things around.

The report recommends the appointment of an executive officer and establishment of a wool sector governance group to oversee development of an investment case.

Mt Somers Station farmer and project action group member Acland said bringing the report together was always going to be fraught with issues.

“There was great expectation that the report would save the industry but if the answer was easy it would have been done before now.

“People who expected a silver bullet will be disappointed,” Acland said.

“The report steers a direction to look at a strategic vision, which is what the sector needs in some form of co-ordination that everyone can support.

“This is a first step, it’s a start, it’s not going to save the industry overnight.

“The report recognises we are poised for change, there are a whole lot of steps to come and there’s wide sector agreement on that.

“The report is saying let’s make a strategic plan with strategic investment and this requires bigger outside thinking.

“It’s a start for all across the sector to get on board for the journey.”

Acland said there is some industry funding in place for the executive officer role with consultation under way as to how that role is best filled.

The governance group will not be a continuation of the Project Action Group.

“This group will need a different skill set,” Acland said.

But Banks Peninsula farmer and Wools NZ founding chairman Mark Shadbolt says the report lacks a substantive action plan and there’s no detail around the implementation and funding of the recommendations. 

“I do have major concern over this establishment of a board and appointment of an executive officer – who is going to do this to get it right and how will it be paid for?

“The industry has been in decline for more than 20 years and this report recognises that but despite waiting two years we still don’t have an action plan to move forward.”

Shadbolt said change in the industry must come about commercially not politically.

“The real focus must be in the market with the consumer. No more money needs to be spent on wool behind the farm gate.

“Anything else now needs to be driven by the value of the wool product through the market close to the consumer.”

Shadbolt said the report is remiss in not highlighting the significant work already done.

“There’s a lot more happening in the industry, a lot more going on in the market adding value to wool than the report recognises.

“Let’s not write off the good that’s been done and not recognised in the report.”

Shadbolt said it is an opportune time to consider structural industry changes.

“I would see that as a non-negotiable part of our industry going forward.” 

Primary Wool Co-operative chairman Hamish de Lautour said there are no surprises in the report.

“The industry is at rock bottom, we already know that, it can only get better. 

“Detail now will be key to future progress,” de Lautour said.

“We agree that reform is required in the commercial supply chain and it must be addressed by those entities.

“These are tough times for the entire supply chain and hopefully this will help focus influential entities on what is really important, which is keeping sheep farming profitable,” de Lautour said.

Federated Farmers meat and wool chairman William Beetham said harnessing outside expertise and being market driven will be keys to developing a sound strategic roadmap for reviving the strong wool sector.

Making sure the process is customer-focused and open about what needs to change will be critical, Beetham said.

Achieving the right governance will be the prime factor if the sector is to avoid a repeat of earlier failed attempts to turn around the fortunes of strong wool.

“The governance oversight recommended in the plan, in my opinion, should be professional and selected, based on skills and insights with the ability to deliver strong governance systems.

“The governance must create accountability and drive the vision.

“If we can effectively highlight to global markets and consumers the incredible qualities of natural wool to warm themselves and their homes we can make wool 1shiny and new again,” Beetham said.

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