Reviving the strong wool industry, starting with new sector name

Rural Exchange 17/03/2018

In a move designed to support wool, Federated Farmers (or, Feds) has returned to ‘Meat & Wool’ as the label for that producer section.

Years ago it had changed to ‘Meat & Fibre’ after an earlier change from it's original ‘Meat & Wool’ name.

Section chair Miles Anderson – also a Feds director – led the move for change.  He says ‘fibre’ referred mainly to goat hair, but because goat producers now have their own section it’s appropriate to go back to ‘meat and wool’.

The Canterbury farmer is on a mission to get strong wool back into a strong economic position.

“The aim is to lift the profile of wool and give a clear indication of the people we represent,” Mr Anderson said.

He told Rural Exchange that the industry struggle is “a frustration for all strong wool farmers.”

“It’s not seen as a premium product, by perhaps the consumers,” he said.

Mr Anderson suggested that strong wool has suffered partly because “there’s no coordinated strong wool industry…”

Synthetic fibre products benefit financially from both US lobby groups and even incentives given to salespeople, Mr Anderson explained.

In support of wool, the renamed section showcased wool in a special exhibition at its recent national meeting. Fourteen leading wool industry people highlighted to Feds members and guests the great things being done with wool and told of the challenges they face.

Students from Massey University’s design School showed new ways of using wool.

Mr Anderson said his people want to raise wool’s profile and help show its qualities and many uses.

“If your only source of information was mainstream media, you’d be forgiven for thinking the only thing happening now with New Zealand wool – except for Merino – was that the bottom had dropped out of the market.

“Yes, prices for crossbred/strong wool have halved since mid-2015, but farmers and downstream companies are fighting hard to find new and innovative products to soak up the warehoused clip and spark revenue.”

Anderson says Federated Farmers wants to play a key role in greater sector-wide collaboration on wool initiatives – as reflected in the name change.  The effort is intended to lift the price of crossbred wool and encourage innovation in using wool.

At the function, Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor was presented with special wool products to give to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Feds’ Ruapehu president Lyn Neeson, who co-owns the woollen blanket maker ShearWarmth, presented O’Connor with a blanket for Ardern for her baby.  O’Connor also took away baby clothes from Merino Kids, Wairarapa.

Mr Anderson says the meat & wool council has discussed reinstating the wool levy, but parked it in the meantime.

“But it’s not off the agenda. Personally, I think if we can [work well] with the rest of the industry that would be the ideal time to talk wool levy again,” he said.

Watch the full interview with Miles Anderson above.

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