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Anderton Praises Merino NZ Initiative

Anderton Praises Merino New Zealand Knowledge-Based Initiative

Jim Anderton, Minister for Economic Development, is impressed with the technology implemented by Merino New Zealand at its NZ Product Advancement Centre (PAC) facility in Christchurch, citing it as an example of initiative and foresight contributing to the advancement of the New Zealand rural economy.

³Merino New Zealand, following its inception in 1995, has been instrumental in breaking new ground for the New Zealand merino industry,² Mr Anderton said following a visit to the NZ PAC facility on Saturday (September 16).

³It is now providing exciting information technology that is setting out to revolutionise fibre preparation for the New Zealand merino clip.²

Now in its second year, NZ PAC will process 400,000 merino fleeces during the 2000/01 season, up from 85,000 in its first year, and at a value of approximately $16 million.

Mr Anderton says the technology and systems being used by NZ PAC is the result of investing in R&D to improve the value of the New Zealand merino clip, while at the same time adding value to its customers.

He congratulated NZ PAC for utilising world-leading technology, much of it New Zealand developed, to promote New Zealand merino beyond the commodity positioning of its international competitors.

As a result of increased demand and capacity, the number of staff employed at NZ PAC has increased from eight to 40 this season, says NZ PAC project manager Tony Hewitt. ³Our staff comprises some of the country¹s best merino classers and wool handlers, who are combining their skills with leading edge technology. This provides us with the opportunity to further expand the NZ PAC concept not only in New Zealand, but also globally.

³New Zealand produces fantastic agricultural products, but to date have not always leveraged the full opportunity, both on-farm and in our global markets. NZ PAC is all about providing higher levels of information about our product for growers and customers,² Tony Hewitt says.

While maintaining an R&D focus, NZ PAC is taking a commercial approach to the operation, after being set up by Merino New Zealand in response to international customer requirements, which demand higher standards of clip preparation and uniformity. Tony Hewitt acknowledges the support of the FORST Government funding agency, who provided funding for the project in its initial R&D phase.

In the recently-released McKinsey Report, NZ PAC was identified as being an integral component for the advancement of the New Zealand merino industry. It is stated in this report that ³growers would benefit from the accurate classification of their wool qualities and the advanced logistics of PAC².

A key feature of the NZ PAC operation is that individual animal information is built up throughout the process, allowing for objective and measurable data to be traced back to individual animals, providing growers with valuable information to assist in farm and flock management.

Not only are growers benefiting from higher levels of information about their fibre, but are also able to take advantage of premiums the market is paying for finer micron counts. With significant premiums being paid on the world market for ultrafine merino, growers are looking to technological advancements such as those offered at NZ PAC to maximise their returns.

³In addition to customising the classing of each line of fibre to ensure we meet the exact needs of our customers, we can also provide valuable feedback to the growers, allowing them to identify the optimal sheep for breeding, which will provide long-term benefits,² Tony Hewitt says.

³We consider PAC to be an important hub for information, providing data that will not only assist growers in maximising their returns, but also the customer end of the market. We are currently conducting trials with customers to quantify the benefits NZ PAC will provide, further ensuring we continue to meet exact customer specifications.²

While NZ PAC Ltd is run along commercial lines, it remains an R&D centre, and will be the focus of ongoing research into ways of using technology to maximise grower returns and customer satisfaction.

³The NZ PAC operation is a classic case of enhancing a primary product to meet the international market¹s requirements. It is centralising technology and aiding regional development in Canterbury,² he adds.

Ends

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