Struggling wool sector hopes to learn from success of red meat industry

Federated Farmers is hoping the struggling wool sector can learn from the success of the red meat industry as momentum grows to turn wool's fortunes around. 

Last week it was announced that the Primary Wool Co-operative and Wools of New Zealand were in discussions to work together to rejuvenate the country's strong wool sector. 

The Government also released its plan to revitalise the industry earlier this year, with the Strong Wool Action Group established last week. That group is a collaboration of representatives from across the industry who will work together to carry out the recommendations of the Government's report. 

Although many similar groups have been established in the past, Federated Farmers' meat and wool chair William Beetham says it's now or never for the strong wool industry, which is at a record low.

"I think we haven't seen the doldrums as we see them right now in the strong wool sector," Beetham told Rural Exchange over the weekend.

Beetham admitted similar unsuccessful efforts had been made in the past to help the industry, but said he remained optimistic something could be done.

"We seem to be recycling this thing and so in this point in time that has to be our greatest opportunity - to learn from the past and make sure we don't have these same issues whereby there is action, a lot of enthusiasm about creating a new path forward for what is actually a wonderful fibre and a great opportunity for New Zealand and let that opportunity slip by by not putting our foot on the peddle," he said.

"I think if we look at the new wool action group that's been created there's a strong will for industry, especially growers, to get behind this group, to make sure action's occurring and actually hold the group to account to make sure the processes that are happening."

Beetham said the red meat industry was a good example of how it is possible to turn a sector around.

"I came back into farming 12 years ago and the value of our red meat was less than half it is now. So we've seen great success in that industry and we've seen a lot of lessons learnt from that process," he said.

"Even after the issues with COVID we've seen stability in the value of our red meat product."

In May, monthly red meat exports topped $1 billion for the first time, a new record. 

And while similar earnings seem to be far off for wool, Beetham says it's not impossible.

"Wool [has] gone from being worth nothing to now being worth a third of nothing. And so now we're looking at those experiences and we can imitate what those experiences are from the red meat sector and implement it into our wool sector and probably do it better. That's where I see the greatest opportunity and the change from what has previously happened."