Warm fuzzies for PM, but with a catch
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s baby won’t want for warmth on his or her arrival thanks to gifts of some of New Zealand’s finest wool products.
But they come with a small catch - the faltering crossbred wool industry which accounts for 95 per cent of the national clip wants Ardern’s support.
Under siege from animal rights groups and out-competed by synthetic products, the coarse wool sector is in crisis.
Brokers have described last season as the worst in 50 years, and farmers have been barely able to cover the costs of shearing their sheep. Prices per kilogram are just under $3. By contrast prices for fine or merino wool are on a high at about $28/kg.
From 1850 to the turn of the 20th century, wool was New Zealand’s
Wool and other natural fibres are wonder products and government can help take them to the next level ... Winston Peters
leading export product; today it is in 18th place with annual earnings of $522 million in 2017.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor received the gifts on Ardern’s behalf at a Federated Farmers showcase to promote the virtues of wool. Lyn Neeson, the director of King Country business ShearWarmth wool blankets, presented O’Connor with a white blanket called Tokirima and a teal blue one dubbed Land to Sea.
She urged the Government to take concrete measures to improve returns to the hard pressed sector.
New Zealand companies which used a lot of wool, such as carpet manufacturers, should pay a fairer price for the product, she said.
Neeson said Federated Farmers was developing a new strategy which might include a campaign for the return of a levy for marketing and promotion.
The last attempt to introduce one was in 2014 when 56.8 per cent of farmers voted against it, even though it had the support of Federated Farmers, the New Zealand Woolbrokers Association, the National Council of New Zealand Wool Interests, Wool Research Organisation and the Campaign for Wool.
Ranged against them were the New Zealand Merino Company and Wools of NZ. The proposal was a compulsory payment of 2.75c/kg, with the total amount raised $4.2m a year.
O’Connor told the audience at the showcase the wool industry needed a ‘‘bomb’’ under it. He suggested it was time to take the gloves off, to run a campaign marrying images of synthetic products with a child covered in ‘‘cruddy’’ oil, against one of a child and a lamb gamboling in a field. ‘‘We can’t afford not to have a levy,’’ he said.
Before the election, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said his party would stop synthetic carpets being installed in government-funded buildings by specifying wool carpets and the use of wool insulation.
He pointed out that even in Parliament there was more synthetic than wool carpet.
‘‘Wool and other natural fibres are wonder products and government can help take them to the next level by specifying them as products of choice,’’ he said.
Monique Neeson of ShearWarmth with some of the company’s blankets.