The wool and mohair market has also been under the microscope and is now considered a specialty or niche market, rather than a commodity market as it was known until some ten years ago.
Ethical wool production
Jan Louis Venter, an advisor at the National Wool Growers’ Association (NWGA) in the Free State, says that consumers who prefer wool clothing have very specific requirements. According to him, they seek good quality products that have been produced in an ethical way, accompanied by evidence that all production processesn are acceptable and sustainable for the future.
“The concept is not new,” he says. “A good example is the fruit industry, where no products may be exported until the required audited standards have been met.”
Heinrich Victor, marketing manager of fibre at the OVK, notes that fruit producers must be at least GLOBALG.A.P. certified before products can be exported.
He also believes that fibre certification will play an even greater role in future. “It is imperative for South Africa to follow the regulations, as the bulk of the country’s fibre is traded on an international platform, with only a very small percentage processed locally – mohair to a greater extent than wool.”
A changing market
Jan Louis emphasises that it is imperative to apply biosecurity measures to ensure that animals remain disease free and to keep unwanted diseases from entering herds and spreading further.
“For example, newly purchased animals must be kept separate for at least a month to ensure that new diseases do not end up in a healthy herd. Quarantined animals, for example, cannot be kept in adjoining camps.”
He believes that biosecurity, or the lack thereof, can cause great damage to the South African wool industry and refers to two diseases that can run riot. “Anthrax or Rift Valley fever outbreaks can literally bring our country’s wool industry to a halt. This emphasises the need for biosecurity measures and, equally important, making every employee aware of this fact.”
In addition to biosecurity requirements, consumers want to know how the wool is produced. Jan Louis paints a picture of the modern consumer: “It is usually a person who has a ‘user conscience’ and who does not simply accept or take ordinary advertising seriously. He or she wants sufficient evidence that a product is in fact ethically produced.”
Globally there are numerous systems, or niche segments, aimed at obtaining quality assurance for wool and having it certified accordingly. Examples include ZQ, Abelusi, the Sustainable Cape Wool Standard (SCWS), the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) and the more recently integrated Responsible Mohair Standard (RMS).
An annual fee must be paid to utilise these systems, but it is usually an affordable amount compared to the income a producer received from a clip. Jan Louis recommends that producers consult their wool brokers.
Producers usually want to know what type of benefits these quality assurance systems offer. “The biggest advantage of such a system is that it guarantees market access for producers amid a rapidly changing marketing environment,” says Jan Louis. “If there is a premium on wool sales, it is an added bonus for the producer.”
Sustainable Cape Wool Standard
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