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Home > Media> 1999

7 May 1999

NZ Sheep Farmer
1999 edition

Bugger quality

by Kelvin Whall, Manager, Quality Services, WoolPro

Poor prices, floods and droughts are wearing farmers down. Talk to many of them about joining the Fernmark Quality Programme and you get the big thumbs down.

“Bugger quality. Wool’s not worth the effort. It’s only a by-product. Why should I bother – it doesn’t earn me a premium.”

We’ve all heard the comments.

But let’s be quite frank. “Bugger quality” is not a reasonable response.

No matter what industry you’re in, quality is the key to success. From fresh fruit to computers, every consumer wants a quality item for a reasonable price.

It’s no different in processing industries. Poor quality raw materials lead to downtime, breakages, extra costs and unhappy customers.

It doesn’t matter whether the raw material is iron ore, wheat, nylon fibre or wool. If your supplier doesn’t provide what’s ordered, then you go somewhere else.

Industry lifeline

Changing your supplier is something that’s exceptionally easy to do in the textile industry. If your wool supplier doesn’t shape up, you can switch to nylon, polypropylene and countless other fibres, depending on the end use.

That’s why we have the Fernmark Quality Programme. It’s our industry lifeline.

No matter what the market price. No matter what the fashion. No matter what the fibre, every textile mill wants quality assured deliveries.

That’s not surprising. It’s what their customers expect of them.

In the world they work in, quality assurance is a given. It’s something which in their view we should have done years ago. Which is why they don’t want to pay premium prices for a quality assured supply, if they can help it.

For growers looking for a premium price for their quality assured wool, the lack of an immediate connection between quality today and the price tomorrow can be disheartening.

But quality assurance is not like doing a cut and polish before selling a used car. It’s a commitment to the long-term future of the fibre.

None of us know what the future holds. But we do know that quality will be the platform upon which any future marketing or processing initiatives are based.

Even at today’s prices there are few sheep farms where wool doesn’t contribute at least 20 per cent of net farm income. On most farms the figure is much higher.

It’s not as much money as you would like. But it’s income you can’t afford to throw away.

Virtually every broker, most major exporters and many of the larger wool merchants are now ISO and Fernmark quality assured operators. In many cases it has cost them tens of thousands of dollars to get their accreditation.

These companies are now quite rightly asking why growers are not matching their commitment. Especially when Fernmark accreditation is free.

At worst, it costs most growers a few hundred dollars for improved lighting. You’ll also have to take a little extra care and attention around the woolshed and yards.

It’s not much to ask.

No excuses

For growers who are serious about farming sheep there’s no excuses for not being accredited. At least, none that hold water.

All you have to do is contact your broker, or local WoolPro extension specialist and ask to join the Fernmark Quality Programme today. There’s no membership fee.

The strongest support for quality assurance to date has come from Merino and mid-micron growers. Fernmark Quality, Wrightson Woolcare and Merino Integrity Programme wools make up 80 per cent of Merino and 44 per cent of mid-micron wools sold at auction—a big increase on last year.

In return for their commitment, fine wool growers are earning useful premiums at auction. This is additional to the premiums associated with normal measured characteristics like micron, colour, and length.

For crossbred growers the premiums amount to only a few cents a kilo. With only 11 per cent of crossbred growers and 20 per cent of crossbred wool accredited, we need greater quantities to make end users really interested.

Once mills have tried Fernmark Gold wools which have been sourced through the quality programme, they will become committed to their use. For mills with a QA-focus, it will then become inconceivable for them to switch back to non-QA fibres from other sources.

The case for QA in wool cannot be disputed. There is no other option for the fibre—regardless of the market conditions on the day.

Either you are committed to quality wool production or you are not. If you are, you should belong to a quality programme. Don’t put it off any longer.

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