Promotion tops list of wool industry objectives

The KwaZulu-Natal branch of the National Woolgrowers’ Association (NWGA) recently held its series of annual regional meetings at Utrecht, Mooi River and Cedarville. Lloyd Phillips reports on issues of importance that emerged at the Mooi River event.

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The promotion of the South African wool industry and its products on a local and international scale has become top priority for the country’s stakeholder businesses, and adequate funding has finally been made available to get this initiative off the ground.

“While stakeholders in the South African wool industry are very aware of the positive characteristics of wool products, we have found that the general public both here and overseas are not,” said Geoff Kingwill, chairperson of Cape Wools SA, which is focusing on the promotion of wool this year.

“By informing more potential wool product consumers about these benefits, the local wool industry will be able to continue enjoying the premium prices that wool products demand.” Kingwill added that a positive image for wool products required the accurate use of terminology and branding when marketing them. “The Merino brand must be kept for use in only fine wool clothing, and not for the thicker wool used in interior textiles. Using coarser wool on clothing labelled under the Merino brand will harm the brand’s image,” he explained.

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Strategic partnerships Cape Wools SA said it’s continually forming strategic partnerships with international wool industry stakeholders in order to find more effective ways of keeping the SA wool value chain sustainable and profitable. The local industry is also seeking ways to grow even further. It currently produces about 50 million kilograms of wool annually, of which 98%, valued at R1,5 billion, is exported to a number of countries. China and Europe are SA’s biggest wool markets.

The SA-produced wool promotion programme is funded by a portion of the 10c/kg indirect levy that SA-based wool buyers collect for the Wool Trust. Kingwill called on local wool producers to support the use of this levy because they would benefit from the promotion of their wool, and products made from it.

“The majority of the South African wool clip is used in blended wool products, so the wool can’t be promoted to outlets which retail wool products,” he pointed out. However, the local and international buyers of our wool are being targeted for promotion programmes. Cape Wools SA wants to make sure that South African wool continues to be of the best quality in the world, and is most preferred by the buyers.”

Wool study groups essential

The challenges of The highly competitive economic environment in which SA wool producers operate, make it essential that they remain empowered with the best knowledge and skills, to allow them to make informed economic and management decisions. I n his annual report Hendrik Botha, chairperson of the KZN NWGA, pointed out that all wool producers in the province should take advantage of the opportunities created by the various study group initiatives the NWGA has set up.

 “According to the figures, with the current prices wool sheep farming is economically very sound.” Botha explained. “Therefore, the management of the KZN NWGA, together with its study groups and Bom Louw, our production advisor, chose to focus our attentions over this past year on the ongoing issues of stock theft and problem animal control, both of which threaten to undermine the profitability of wool production. The KZN NWGA is working closely with relevant organisations to find ways to minimise the impacts of these problems.” – Lloyd Phillips