Archive for the ‘Wool industry’ Category

Steady progress with Primary Growth projects

June 14, 2017

It is eight years since the Primary Growth Partnership programme was announced by the then recently elected National Government. At the end of 2016 there were 20 projects under way and just two completed, but 30th June sees the completion of FarmIQ, the largest of the red meat sector programmes. This seems to be an appropriate point to evaluate the success of PGP, in particular the six meat and two wool programmes which have been allocated total Crown and industry funding of $342 million. (more…)

Past, present and future of the meat industry (Part 3)

July 2, 2016

The future

There are two diametrically opposing views on the meat industry’s future outlook: either the world is short of protein and has an insatiable appetite for what we produce or meat will be replaced by artificial or synthetic proteins, much cheaper and easier to produce. (more…)

Past, present and future of the meat industry (Part 2)

June 7, 2016

Present

Today’s industry has many of the same characteristics as the mid 1980s, but a number of things have changed, mostly for the better. (more…)

Past, Present and Future of the Meat Industry

June 7, 2016

Introduction

I gave a presentation recently to a Beef + Lamb Field Day about the meat industry. I briefly reviewed the history of the industry, the impact of certain key events and the influence of politics leading up to the 1985 election. I then gave an appraisal of the present covering the last 30 years, post subsidies, when the sector had to modernise fast; and lastly I took a punt on predicting what might happen in the foreseeable future and how farmers and meat companies might have to adapt to survive and flourish.

 

For the purpose of presenting these thoughts to interested readers I have divided the presentation into three parts which will be published separately. The first part is a review of the first 100 years and how this period determined the structure of the industry. (more…)

Address to MIRINZ workshop – How and why research is important for the future

March 19, 2016
  1. Themes

 

The three main themes for this workshop are:

 

  1. Added value products focusing on key points of differentiation in NZ meat products with a research emphasis on credible health and nutritional benefits.
  2. Value from quality – research outcomes that will enable the red meat sector to meet increasing demand for high value premium meat products in existing and new markets.
  • Provenance and food assurance – research from fork to farm to ensure that exports are safe, of superior quality with defendable provenance and attractive to consumers.

(more…)

Hard to see where sheepmeat solution will come from

January 28, 2016

Not surprisingly farmers are dissatisfied with the state of the sheepmeat market. The impact of drought has brought about a near 20% increase in the kill for the first quarter in a season where the full year lamb kill is forecast to be 1.7 million lambs below last year. (more…)

Landcorp’s Carden optimistic despite low half year profit

March 28, 2015

The state owned farmer Landcorp last month reported a substantial drop in both revenue and profit for the six months ended 31 December last year, but CEO Steve Carden is still very positive about future prospects and the importance of Landcorp as a farming business. (more…)

Wool trade still at crossroads

February 8, 2015

Ever since the Korean War over sixty years ago the price of wool has been in decline with a few upturns along the way. Over the period the fortunes of wool growers have suffered from massive lifestyle changes leading to reduced demand for woollen textiles and fibres and the rise of synthetics with properties capable of imitating, if not matching, those of wool at a lower price. Wool is not the only natural fibre to be affected, with cotton being hit even harder.

 

There are a remarkable number of parallels between the red meat and wool industries in the reactions to the situation which is not surprising given the respective price trends and the fact many of the farmers are the same individuals. Sheep and beef farmers’ opinions of the deficiencies of the meat industry are virtually identical to those of the wool trade, while proposed solutions are also remarkably similar.

 

The culprits in both cases are the traditional pantomime villains: privately owned meat companies and wool merchants, brokers and exporters, neither of whom, so the argument goes, have much skin in the game apart from shareholder capital, in many cases held by overseas shareholders. The suggested solution to both problems is farmer ownership of the whole value chain which will supposedly retain financial control and ownership while at the same time ensuring sustainably better returns to farmers.

 

So far evidence paradise will result from farmer control appears to be something of a mirage, although it may be too soon to write off the prospect of success completely. One private wool buyer whose family has been in the business since the 19th century told me he doubted the vertical integration model, saying he wouldn’t think of telling farmers how to farm, but equally wouldn’t expect a farmer to know how to run his business.

 

Wools of New Zealand, established in 2013 with grower capital despite failing to reach its initial equity raising target, is too early in its life to be called a failure. But the signs are not all positive although the PR remains very upbeat. There are plenty of rumours of growers who are unhappy with the contract prices they receive with substantial penalties deducted for colour and vegetable matter, up to 45 cents a kilo compared with 10 cents at auction.

 

A second issue is payment; WNZ’s Camira lambs wool contract payment is in three instalments over 15 months compared with 14 days after sale to a private merchant or at auction. Further the contract price of $6.25 per kilo applies to wool up to 30 micron which ignores the variation of up to 60 cents for wool between 27.5 and 30 micron. At the time of writing the only wool type with a lower spot price than the Camira contract is 30 micron, so growers supplying lower micron wool would lose on the transaction, even before allowance for colour and VM discounts and interest costs as a result of the payment schedule.

 

A third factor is the 15 cents a kilo Wool Market Development Commitment levied by WNZ on a shareholder’s assessed annual wool production which applies whether or not growers supply all or part of their clip to WNZ. At up to $30 a bale this can amount to several thousand dollars a year with little evidence of sizeable new premium markets being reflected in higher prices than can be achieved through the traditional systems.

 

Open criticism of WNZ is not yet frequently heard or expressed, either because shareholders are still prepared to keep an open mind or are unwilling to admit they might have made an expensive mistake or possibly they haven’t yet analysed the comparative returns. But there are definitely instances of growers who have reverted to supplying private merchants, after signing up as shareholders of WNZ. However they will continue to receive six monthly accounts for the 15 cent WMDC which they are contracted to pay. It seems the only exit possibility for disaffected shareholders is to find a buyer for their shares, although these are infrequently traded.

 

The other cooperative option for wool growers is Primary Wool Cooperative which has been in existence for more than 40 years and has a 50% share of Elders Primary Wool, responsible for the Just Shorn brand sold into the United States for high end carpets. PWC has over 1000 members indicating a certain degree of satisfaction with the dividends and rebates paid, as well as the wool prices received. However there is limited evidence the Just Shorn initiative has added substantially to growers’ incomes, but as with Camira this may be a matter of time.

 

The wool merchants and private buyers admit they will be accused of bias, but they say there are no new markets for wool driving any real increase in the wool price, while the rise in the past two seasons is due to demand exceeding supply, as sheep numbers fall.

 

Like the meat industry, the big question for wool growers is what sort of industry they really want. For all the talk of the need for cooperative farmer ownership of the value chain, it still appears a majority of farmers are actually satisfied with their merchant or broker relationship. Otherwise surely they would all vote with their feet and send their clip exclusively to a farmer owned cooperative.

 

But this just doesn’t seem to be happening in sufficiently large numbers to create the desired change claimed by supporters of the new model. The collapse of the milk price may well have taken the wind out of the sails of proponents of a Fonterra like system for meat and wool.

Challenge for A&P Shows to satisfy demands of new public

February 8, 2015

The 148th Warkworth A&P Show was held on the Saturday of Auckland Anniversary Weekend on a very warm day with no fear of rain which at least alleviated the committee’s first concern. In the north at least feed is still plentiful, although rain would be welcome, but there is as yet no major worry of drought; so we were able to plan the event and welcome the weather forecast without a guilty conscience. (more…)

Thorny question of wool levy benefits

September 10, 2014

Sheep farmers have the chance to vote for or against a compulsory levy under the Commodity Levies Act (CLA) in October. The Wool Levy Group’s proposal indicates a levy of 3 cents a kilo which would raise $4.7 million to be spent on a combination of education, communication, advocacy, R&D and administration. This is either too much, far too little or a worthwhile beginning which depends on your point of view.

 

In this week’s Farmers Weekly Ruth Richardson argues very strongly against wasting any more farmer money on a compulsory levy, citing quite justifiably the enormous waste of funds both by the Wool Board and on its subsequent disestablishment. On the opposite side of the fence sit the Wool Levy Group and its supporters.

 

Of course Richardson speaks from the perspective of being Chair of the NZ Merino Company which broke away from the Wool Board after successfully arguing for the separation of merino farmers’ levies from the confusing morass of overhead and expenditure on wool, both beneficial and useless.

 

She maintains what the wool industry needs is more market, not more levy and highlights the success of NZ Merino in ‘facing and making markets from consumer to grower’ as the best way of moving up the value chain.

 

Of course she is probably correct because you can’t argue with the profitable performance and success of NZ Merino since it went solo. But my feeling is this point of view may be a bit too simplistic for the rest of the wool industry which covers a much wider spectrum of wool types, microns and end uses. Merino has the advantage of being a more easily promoted fibre with its predominant application for high quality and high fashion woollen clothing.

 

In last week’s Farmers Weekly Steven Fookes argued the necessity of the industry investing funds wisely in promoting the unique characteristics of wool to bring wool back to the attention of retailers, designers and architects who are looking for just such a fibre.

 

There are two examples of industry initiatives which are doing just what Richardson and Fookes say should happen, both achieved without the imposition of a commodity levy and both concentrating on strong carpet wools at the opposite end of the spectrum from merino..

 

Wools of New Zealand has 700 shareholders representing 14.5 million kilos of strong wool and with the Laneve brand has a number of carpet yarn and carpet manufacturers as partners in North America and the UK.

 

Elders Primary Wool’s efforts and progress with Just Shorn in the USA are a prime example both of what can be achieved with selective distribution and targeted promotion as well as the time it takes to achieve the objective. Just Shorn is specifically focused on promoting wool’s qualities for carpets to top end flooring retailers in the retail group which are franchisees of CCA Global Partners.

 

Therefore the big question is whether a levy is likely to produce better or quicker results than the industry has achieved of its own accord. The main benefit of a levy would be to capture all wool growers, not just those that have been willing to invest in one or other of the initiatives.

 

But then one must ask if the small amount of funds raised in a levy would be better spent on the existing initiatives rather than being applied to a new organisation with another overhead structure. Richardson’s point the amount available for R&D will go nowhere is undoubtedly correct, while even $3.2 million for advocacy and education to raise demand is unlikely to go very far or achieve any measurable improvement.

 

Fookes’ comment about the importance of industry investment is also quite right, but it is already happening without a levy. A better solution would be to try to build on the moves towards industry rationalisation which have started to happen with the Primary Wool Cooperative’s offer for a 5% share in Wool Equities and chairman Bay de Lautour’s stated desire to merge PWC with Wools of New Zealand to form a single farmer owned organisation.

None of this will happen in a hurry, but it seems to me to be a tidier solution than to set up a new organisation which harks back to the days of the Wool Board.

 

As with the meat industry the challenge will be to get all growers to agree what they want and are willing to pay for, but the focus on strong carpet wools would be a clear goal which all strong wool growers should be prepared to support.