‘It's time for NWGA to focus on grassroots level'
Farmer's Weekly|August 06, 2021
Billy van Zyl, new chairperson of the National Wool Growers’ Association, spoke to Susan Marais about his plan to focus on farmers at grassroots level, the challenges facing South Africa’s wool growers, and how the association is helping communal farmers enter the market.
Billy van Zyl

Why do you think it’s important for the National Wool Growers’ Association (NWGA) to turn its focus to grassroots level?

We need to serve South African wool farmers at this level because it’s here that our organisation will be most efficient.

What are the biggest challenges for wool farmers at the moment?

We need to produce a world-class product for the global market, and it has to be both sustainable and traceable. I really encourage farmers to get their farms and farming practices assessed; the South African clip [needs to be improved and certified so that it is accepted by] all role players and stakeholders in the value chain.

In the end, our aim is to get as many farmers [complying with] the Sustainable Cape Wools Standard as possible. This is an inclusive industry certification standard supported by the South African Wool and Mohair Buyers’ Association, and it will eventually create a more cohesive wool environment.

We also need to increase wool production in South Africa. There is high demand internationally for our product. While we do this, however, it’s crucial that we address issues such as predation, stock theft and drought. All of these threaten the economic viability of farmers, and they will eventually leave the industry if these matters are not addressed.

The wool industry relies on highly skilled labourers. It is a major challenge to find teams of well-trained and qualified shearers to harvest the South African clip and to ensure that they remain in the industry.

How will the NWGA help farmers overcome these challenges?

The NWGA is trying to solve [these challenges] through the production technology services that it provides to farmers. The association has production advisers in each province whose function is to provide training for farmers and farmworkers in sheep handling, shearing and all aspects of wool sheep farming.

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