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Wool Industry On The Up

Media Statement 9 August 1999

New Zealand's wool industry will better understand the value-adding chain, extending from the sheep to the consumer, if the aims of a new Wool Research Organisation project are achieved.

An investment of the Public Good Science Fund, WRONZ is developing an economic and technological database covering everything that occurs from the time wool leaves the farm gate to when it reaches the consumer. A second part of the project involves the development of custom browser software showing a computer model representing the wool flow and the value added to it all along the pipeline.

"This can show the dynamics of the local and international wool and textile industries," WRONZ scientist Denis Maddever says. "The study will enable us to extend our knowledge back to the farm and out into the global wool textile industry. Researchers will be better placed to show how improved returns might be gained from wool, from the sheep's back to its sale, and beyond."

Mr Maddever says that in the past 35 years New Zealand's value-adding sector, which turns raw wool into garments and other finished products, has more than doubled its contribution to the economy - from $262 million to $551 million in current dollars.

"This sector is becoming more and more technologically sophisticated, and is now a significant exporter of intellectual property in its own right," he says.

However, while farmers are growing the same amount of wool as they did in 1961-62, its value in 1997-98 dollars has fallen from $2.5 billion to $880 million.

"WRONZ sees this research project as an integral part of an overall research and development strategy to try to reverse this trend. The development of the pipeline model and associated software will enable us to more quickly and accurately identify R&D opportunities and focus our efforts where they will be of most value to the New Zealand woolgrower," Mr Maddever says.

"The research will benefit other wool researchers, Crown Research Institutes, and universities. It will also help research funders, such as the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, with project selection and portfolio analysis."

"In this respect it will be a useful tool to agencies such as the Wool Industry Research Advisory Council, Wool Board, and Foundation for Sheep Research, who are concerned with the development of broad wool industry research and development strategies."

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