Give other options a ‘WIRL’ – Wools of New Zealand
Wool research behind the farm gate was important but needed to be attached to work already being undertaken in the wool industry, says Wools of New Zealand in its wool levy position paper released today.
The grower owned wool marketing and sales company says while it is important for all growers to have their say, they need to be “armed with the facts relating to costs, benefits and possible alternatives before they vote.”
While WNZ agrees there is a need for additional training and tech transfer both inside the farm gate and beyond, it believes these functions can be provided by existing agencies such as Tectra and AgITO while there were also other options to creating yet another structure in an already cluttered industry.
“WNZ would go as far as recommending that the Wool Industry Research Consortium (WIRL), as an established agency, manage the collection and distribution of public private money investment into R and broaden its mandate to provide the functions and outcomes viewed as necessary to the industry, including leadership.
“The Wool Industry Research Organisation (WRONZ) fund sits at approximately $35 million as a legacy of the Wool Board. This fund is growing in size as a result of prudent fiscal management. Utilising returns from this fund alongside public and private funding, WIRL focuses on investment in R & D which helps increase the value and competitiveness of New Zealand wool through innovation and new uses for wool.”
Mark Shadbolt, chairman of WNZ says at this stage it is unclear why more research funding is needed on top of the WIRL fund. “The current fund – plus matching grants from other sources – should be more than ample to cover reasonable research needs for the foreseeable future.
“Utilising an existing wool industry structure such as WIRL which represents the whole of industry including growers, has the ear of government and can leverage grower funds against public and private funding, should be seriously considered. In our view this is superior to creating yet another structure in an already cluttered industry. Additionally, WIRL has a well-represented governance structure and administration function.
“Funding is also available from the MPI’s Primary Growth Partnership, which already supports the NZ Sheep Industry Transformation Project, undertaken with NZ Merino, as an example.”
WNZ believes there are three key issues for growers in relation to the proposed wool levy:
- What extra returns will a levy provide in the short to long term
- Do we need another structure in place at all (as WIRL is already established and funded)
- Why the current levy on sheep can’t be expanded to cover wool?
Mr Shadbolt says the New Zealand strong wool industry can only capture value through commercial sales and marketing initiatives that reach right through the value chain to the consumer. “Levy spend will not achieve this.
“Before growers vote they should satisfy themselves that a generic industry-good model will provide any direct commercial benefits. We are unable to point to any examples where generic marketing has yielded the kind of benefits the Wool Levy Group are looking to achieve.
“It is noteworthy also that since the wool levy was rejected in 2009, growers have enjoyed improving commercial returns on the strength of market penetration, improving industry collaboration, grower commitment and investment, leadership and government support. This during a period of rationalisation and a declining wool clip nationally.
“What a levy should not be, is a crutch to abandon this new found sense of purpose for our industry.”