Research key to wool’s fight-back
Lack of demand and animal activism are having a negative impact on NZ’s wool industry, says the Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand (WRONZ).
“The NZ wool industry is traditionally a significant contributor to the country’s economy,” WRONZ chairman Derrick Millton says. “However, the latest quarterly forecast from MPI showed wool exports fell 28% to $550m to the year through June, as a lack of demand from China weighed on prices.”
He says this decline – combined with PETA’s recent anti-wool campaign highlights challenges the industry faces.
“It shows how essential it is we continue to promote the value of wool as a natural 21st century fibre, and the high animal welfare standards in NZ that protect our sheep and other animals,” Millton adds.
“R&D is vital to the future of the wool industry in NZ. WRONZ is committed to developing innovative solutions that showcase the intrinsic natural properties of wool, find new and novel uses for it, and enhance fibre, fabric and product performance.”
Meanwhile, NZ wool is following the coffee, honey and wine industries in funding research for a test that determines traceability.
A test that can confirm the authenticity and origin of wool is among $3m of research funded by WRONZ to protect, enhance and grow the industry.
Using concepts already commercially proven in other agriculturally based industries, traceability of wool can now be determined by measuring stable isotopes.
The distinctions between conditions in which the fibre is grown are ‘hard wired’ into the chemical nature of the fibre. Temperature, altitude, rainfall levels, soil and air purity combine to generate unique reproducible levels of stable isotopes in the fibre.
Millton says the ability to verify the source of a product is increasingly important to consumers, and tests have already been widely adopted by the coffee, honey and wine industries.
“It’s a step forward for the NZ wool industry that we can now do the same. The test will provide NZ wool users with a tool to protect their marketing initiatives in the future.”