Daryn Pedersen, of Wool Wairarapa Ltd, is a big advocate of the natural fibre. PHOTOS/GIANINA SCHWANECKE
In recent months, the price of wool has plummeted to new lows, but some are hopeful innovative new uses for wool and government assistance could help turn it around.
Daryn Pedersen, of Wool Wairarapa based at Waingawa, has been in the wool industry for more than 30 years.
During this time he’s seen a lot of changes.
“This country’s infrastructure was built on wool.”
“[In recent years], the emphasis has been on the meat because that’s where the returns have been and wool’s sort of just been this pain in the backside.
“The harvesting costs have gone up.”
This often made it difficult during the buying process, he said.
These days, fine and coarse crossbred wool sold for little over $2 a kilogram.
With each sheep producing from two to three kilograms of wool, and shearing costs at about $5 a sheep, there was little monetary incentive.
“It’s pretty disheartening for the farmer.”
The wool price, like many other New Zealand exports, dropped dramatically in the first few months of the covid-19 pandemic.
“A lot of wool is processed in China and redirected into Europe and America. It couldn’t move.”
However, factories had since “slowly and surely” reopened which brought renewed demand for wool.
“The Indian market has been pretty strong and buoyant. And [we send] a bit to China and different parts of the world.”
The pandemic had also brought about other changes in the wool industry, with Pedersen saying he felt there was new interest in the properties of wool and its potential uses.
“Covid-19 seems to have stepped us back to our roots.”
From an animal welfare and farm management perspective, shearing is absolutely imperative.
“Wool is a great way to get good growth out of the animal.”
Shearing sheep encourages them to eat more to maintain body warmth.
It also protects against issues like flystrike.
He said as it was a product which was created every year, people should find new ways of using it.
For him, it came down to education and awareness.
“There are more uses for wool today.
“You want more and more wool products.”
He pointed to growing research around the use of wool in sanitary items such as nappies and tampons, even face masks – another byproduct of the pandemic.
Pedersen said this type of innovation was crucial for the future of the wool industry.
“We need to do something.
“From a wool perspective, we need proactive government help.”
It was also about helping other people understand the difference between wool and synthetic textiles.
“Wool is very environmentally friendly.
“It’s a natural fibre with all the attributes biodegradable, renewable and fire-retardant. It’s breathable and it filters all the horrible things in the air.”