People need to be told ‘what wool is about’

Merino growers Russell Hurst (North Otago), Martin Murray (Maryburn Station), Simon Paterson ...
Merino growers Russell Hurst (North Otago), Martin Murray (Maryburn Station), Simon Paterson (Armidale), Tom Small (Blairich) and Devold Wool Direct general manager Craig Smith (right) with Devold chief executive Cathrine Stange at a trade fair in Germany this year. Photo: Supplied
Education is the key to lifting the state of the wool industry, industry leader Craig Smith says.

Mr Smith, general manager for Devold Wool Direct, is a member of the Wool Working Group, which has been working on how to create a more sustainable and profitable sector.

Made up of 20 wool producers, processors and other industry representatives, it has been charged with developing a pan-sector action plan.

Earlier this year, Mr Smith was  the first New Zealander to be appointed to the global executive committee of the International Wool Textile Organisation, and he is also heavily involved with Campaign for Wool.

He acknowledged crossbred wool prices were "terrible" but said there had been a missed opportunity to educate people about the attributes of wool.

"It’s not about making new things for it ... if we don’t tell people what wool is about, we’ve lost the case.

"You can make the product [but] if people don’t know about wool, how do we get them to buy it? If we don’t give them a reason to look for wool, they are not going to look for wool," he said.

In a world where people were "screaming and yelling about plastic in oceans" and the whale washed ashore in eastern Indonesia with 115 plastic drinking cups in its stomach, wool was an option that could help solve those problems.

But sales people often did not have a clue about where wool came from, let alone know it was biodegradable, he said.

Wool in Schools, part of the global Campaign for Wool, had converted a shipping container  into a "wool shed" that had been travelling around New Zealand educating school pupils about wool.

It had been highly successful and was booked out until the third term next year. Now there was global interest in it, he said.

Unlike crossbred wool, fine wool prices were looking good and bigger retail brands around the world were looking to get "into the green space", which was encouraging, he said.

The market for a reduced offering at last week’s South Island wool sale in Christchurch meant prices finished in sellers’ favour for crossbred wool types, compared with the previous sale.

Widespread rain throughout the South Island meant the offering was almost 2000 bales short of roster, ensuring buyers were keen to secure volumes to process before Christmas, PGG Wrightson Wool’s South Island sales team said.

Prices for a limited offering of mid micron wool took a very sharp lift, reflecting the significant rise in those types across the Tasman last week.

A few lots of last season’s lamb’s wool also sold at solid levels, possibly indicating  new season’s lamb’s wool would be in keen demand.

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