Strong wool group secures govt funding

The Strong Wool Action Group is striving to increase returns to growers. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery.
The Strong Wool Action Group is striving to increase returns to growers. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery.
The Strong Wool Action Group (Swag) has been awarded $2.8million in government funding through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Foods and Fibres Fund.

In a recent newsletter, chairman Rob Hewett and executive officer Andy Caughey said the funding, along with $750,000 contributed by industry, would "propel" the organisation to deliver its vision as the catalyst for change in the sector.

The group was established last year to carry out the recommendations of the Wool Industry Project Action Group, on the back of woeful returns for strong wool growers.

The update said San Francisco design firm IDEO had completed its research, providing "compelling reasons" to invest in the United States market and revealing consumer insights that surfaced due to Covid-19.

Swag briefed IDEO to produce business cases that had global potential, were able to shift volumes of strong wool, and increase returns to growers.

"The home, once a sanctuary from work, is now the place of work. The net result, according to IDEO’s research, is a growing desire to invest in sustainable materials to create a warm, safe and functional environment. This is a ripe opportunity for repositioning our strong wool industry," it said.

IDEO had created business cases with supporting pitch desks to help organisations that could and wanted to go direct to consumers; Swag would share those research findings next month.

Swag was also offering support for existing wool industry players to help grow businesses that could scale globally.

The group was also communicating with universities to establish a new and dedicated wool industry course, covering topics from growing and selecting wool to understanding global markets.

It would look to the private sector for the seed funding of the course, and Swag director David Ferrier was financially contributing in a private capacity.

Meanwhile, a new national standard for wool has been established under the New Zealand Farm Assurance Programme (NZFAP), 15 new wool companies signing up to the programme.

The NZFAP provides assurances to customers and consumers about the integrity, traceability, biosecurity, food safety, environmental sustainability and animal health and welfare of New Zealand’s primary sector products.

The 15 wool companies join 17 red meat processors, one other wool firm, a sheep milk company, Beef + Lamb New Zealand and Deer Industry New Zealand already in the programme.

Mr Hewett said the new quality assurance programme for wool was great news for the sector.

"The Swag is focused on helping to lift the New Zealand strong wool sector out of a prolonged period of low prices.

"We have a simple agenda: support collaboration that is consumer-focused to create demand and add value."

Most sheep farmers were familiar with the quality assurance programme for meat that had been running for years, he said.

"Adding wool to that programme is quite frankly a a no-brainer."

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