Created in 2016 at the request of global brands demanding higher than ever assurances for their wool products, the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) is the only truly global wool assurance standard. RWS is a tool used to certify and recognise the best practices of farmers on a global scale. It ensures all points on the supply chain are certified to the highest standards.
Other global standards, such as the Responsible Down Standard and the Responsible Mohair Standard, have both been developed by the same governing body in recent years.
New Zealand farmers are well placed to meet the RWS standard, which enables farmers to differentiate their wool as ‘RWS Certified.’
Demand for RWS wool is growing. Any growers interested in learning more should contact us: we can help explain and guide you through the process.
As Bloch & Behrens is RWS certified, we are well placed to market RWS wool.
You can learn more about the RWS here: https://textileexchange.org/responsible-wool/
As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues, the International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO) has evaluated its ongoing impact. Wool growers, brokers, processors and manufacturers have all been adversely affected, it reports.
Impacts of COVID monitored by IWTO include:
• Australian wool prices falling by 36 per cent, and as much as 47 per cent elsewhere throughout the world. This has prompted Wool Producers Australia to forecast a further decline in what are already 95-year low production levels.
• Orders for wool selling agents and buyers plunged, first from China, then spreading through east Asia, India, Europe and elsewhere.
• Wool processors’ order books shrank 30 to 40 per cent.
• Wool clothing exports from China were down 33 per cent in the first four months of 2020.
• Clothing retail sales for the year to May dropped by as much as 38 per cent in major wool consuming countries, driving many famous tailored apparel retail brands to the brink of bankruptcy, while sales of floor-coverings fell similarly.
According to IWTO: “The wool supply chain includes tens of thousands of wool farmers and thousands of other companies involved in transforming raw wool into textiles. The supply chain resembles a long goods train. Signals from one end take a long time to reach the other. With wool farmers each making their own decision about selling product, no single organisation can stop this.
“The goods train that is the global wool industry has hit a brick wall, but the back end is still moving forward. It is vital that information about the impact of the crisis is provided quickly to all involved, particularly back to the wool farmers, so they can make fully informed decisions.”
Rosie Moore is an administrator for PGG Wrightson Wool in Napier, a job she started in July 2019.
“My main role is wool administration in the Napier office, which covers everything from wool sales to putting the catalogue together for our fortnightly auctions.
“Being involved in typing and valuing the wool for auction, and helping on auction day, means I follow the process all the way through from when the wool enters the store to when it is sold at auction. I also deal with the grower contract wool, which we supply to our export company, Bloch & Behrens, serving as their contact point,” she explains.
Rosie grew up on a lifestyle property in Central Hawke’s Bay. Although hers is not a farming family, she loved the rural life.
“My parents have an eight hectare property. We always had horses, would raise pet lambs each year, and hand milked a house cow. It was a tiny taster of what farming is really like: the sanitised version,” she says.
Rosie wanted more than a taste. Not realising it was possible to study farming as a degree she originally planned to do veterinary science, then came across agricultural
science at Massey, which was exactly what she wanted.
“I worked on farms through uni, though not much with sheep and beef and almost nothing with wool. In three years through my degree, I only had two lectures on wool. I didn’t have any idea there were so many jobs in the wool industry. All the focus is on dairy, and sheep and beef to a lesser extent. As for wool, we just didn’t hear about it,” she says.
Graduating in 2016, she spent a year travelling, working on farms in the United Kingdom and France, before coming home to a job at Waiterenui, a large Hawke’s Bay sheep and beef farm and Angus stud.
“That was my first real exposure to shepherding, and it was a great introduction that I really enjoyed, though I wanted to move beyond being on the farm,” she says.
Her present job was the only one Rosie applied for. She hit the bullseye first time, and loved it from day one.
“Even with my degree, I was starting at zero with wool. I did understand production, and was used to dealing with farmers, though had so much to learn. Doing the job has increased my knowledge and through support from PGG Wrightson, in January I started the two year Southern Institute of Technology wool handling course with Laurie Boniface,”
As a recent convert, her enthusiasm for wool knows no limit.
“All the talk about the environment and sustainability: our industry is doing it already. We know how wonderful wool is, now we need to make sure that message reaches the average consumer. Wool ticks all the boxes. How do we put that story out there, particularly overseas? I’ve lived overseas, and the awareness is even lower there. You can’t go into a shop and buy the lovely merino clothing like we can,” she says.
Rosie reckons the industry offers plenty
“Sometimes you have to go looking for them. Even though there are challenges at the moment, and everyone else who works here can remember the good times, I’ve come in at rock bottom, and I can see it is only going one way from here.
“Sometimes people get sick of me banging on about wool, but I’m not making any apologies,” she says.
Adam Lindsay has owned Creekside Farms on the Maniototo Plains near Ranfurly since 2011.
Creekside primarily runs Perendale sheep, with around 11,000 breeding ewes on the 2,000 hectare property. In the nine years he has farmed the property Adam has made a significant impact, increasing drought resistance by augmenting an irrigation system that previously covered 65 hectares, digging a 1.5 million cubic metre storage pond and installing four additional pivots to now irrigate 520 hectares.
“We have water rights to draw from the Kyeburn River, which runs alongside our eastern boundary, pumping to the top of the hill to fill the pond through winter and spring. We gravity feed to the pivots during summer. Irrigation enables us to make operational decisions on our terms, unconstrained by adverse weather,” says Adam.
As a consequence, Adam’s farming approach is far more progressive than if he were constantly guarding against the risk of drought. PGG Wrightson plays an important role in assisting this, with Senior Livestock Agent Ryan Dowling, Wool Representative Graham Bell and Wool Procurement Manager Rob Cochrane among Adam’s trusted advisors.
“Although wool is at a low point, as and when it rebounds, I am confident of making the best of it. Currently, with the wool cheque being insignificant, profitability rests on red meat returns. Development of Creekside is therefore focused on growing more protein. However, we also grow more fibre as a consequence of the new irrigation, which will be a benefit should wool prices recover,” Adam says.
Rob Cochrane admires Adam’s farming skill and approach.
“He is a progressive farmer, always looking to make productivity gains. His development of the farm has increased its capacity to sustain stock, ensuring increased production, whether protein or fibre. Regarding wool, Creekside’s clip weights relative to stock numbers are excellent.
“Well respected among local farmers, it is a pleasure to work with someone who understands how to make the best of his property, his stock and his productivity. In the hands of farmers like Adam, the future of New Zealand’s primary production sector is positive,” says Rob.
An Irishman, an Englishman and a Kiwi walk into a bar… or in this instance walk into Design Spun, one of New Zealand’s two remaining spinning mills, in Onekawa, Napier.
Peter Chatterton, the self-described ‘Skinny Pom’ of the three, takes up the story.
“A group of Perendale sheep farmers started Design Spun in the late 1960s to add value to their wool clip. In the early 1980s they grew to a level to enable building their own mill. Unfortunately, that was when Chinese manufacturers started to export, ushering in the era of free markets and globalisation, effectively swamping smaller producers in other countries. At that stage New Zealand had around ten mills. Now there are only two of us,” he says.
After an ownership change in 1996 Irishman Ian Kelly, Kiwi Brendan Jackson and Peter undertook a management buyout of Design Spun. They still run the company, and as Peter says are still operating, assisting growers to realise added value and profit from their clip.
“Design Spun is a speciality yarn spinner, producing worsted, modified worsted and fancy yarns. At the fine end we process 15.8 micron merino, going right up to 36 micron crossbred wool, including all points between. We also spin blends with mohair, alpaca, silk, possum fur, and occasionally cashmere, each generally blended with wool to achieve a particular quality for our clients.
“Sixty per cent of our business is in the hand knitting sector with the balance going into weaving, hosiery and commission contracts.
Design Spun’s contracting business has increased over the last ten years, taking fibre from growers on both sides of the Tasman and turning it into yarn or finished products, including socks, garments and blankets.
“We develop close relationships with all sorts, with merino and crossbred growers; alpaca and mohair farmers,” explains Peter.
PGG Wrightson has been integral to Design Spun for more than 40 years, with North Island Wool Manager Allan Jones playing a key role throughout, and Palle Petersen of the company’s export arm Bloch & Behrens also featuring strongly.
“Palle has been extremely good to deal with. We work alongside him to help our mutual grower clients. It is a relationship that benefits all parties,” says Peter.
Set up in 2011, retail shop and online store Skeinz is a growing addition for Design Spun. This year, alongside the whole trade in Australasia, Skeinz has experienced the highest demand for over 30 years as the lockdown encouraged many people to return to crafting.
Design Spun is a PGG Wrightson Wool Integrity™ brand partner, allowing them the use of the Wool Integrity brand on selected yarns.