The weeklong roadshows held in the five production regions of the Eastern Cape, provided valuable information to communal farmers to understand the complexity of the wool industry and the commodity that they farm with. This event proved more successful than last year with more than 1 000 farmers arriving at the foot of Sterkspruit, Maclear, Engcobo, Butterworth and Middledrift.
Communal wool farmers of the National Woolgrowers’ Association of SA (NWGA) indicated their need to learn more about the structures of the different roleplayers in the South African wool industry. SA Wool- and Mohair buyers association (SAWAMBA), Cape Wools SA (CWSA), Wool Trust, broker firms (BKB and OVK/CMW as well as the Wool Testing Bureau invested in the attempt to impart knowledge and interact with wool farmers.
The question and answer sessions at the end of daily proceedings provided excellent opportunity for random questions ranging from shearing costs, transportation charges, allocation of presses to brokers, infrastructure, equipment and bursary questions to CWSA with most interest deriving from issues relating to the buying houses. Curiosity and uncertainty about ideal time to send wool to be auctioned, possibility of buying wool directly from farmers, reasoning as to why most wool is exported and not processed locally, were only a few of many questions that farmers posed to SAWAMBA.
The hosting of such an event on an annual basis is not enough as there are too many farmers who are hungry to learn how to improve their product and those necessary factors that increase the value of wool. Stakeholders described the event as “essential to farmers as well as themselves” as the challenges faced by farmers ultimately impact every essence of the wool chain.
The NWGA, in partnership with the Wool Trust, Cape Wools SA, Dept. Rural Development and Land Reform and Department of Rural Development & Agrarian Reform EC (and several other smaller partners), has been conducting a rural development programme since 1996 amongst the wool producers in the communal areas of the Eastern Cape.
The success of this programme can only be described as phenomenal. In the 1997/98 wool season communal farmers marketed a mere 222,600kg of raw wool through the formal market, while the rest of the wool clip was sold to speculators at outrageously discounted prices. This increased to 3,8million kg in the 2013/14 wool season. Likewise, the monetary value of the wool sold through the formal market increased many hundred folds from R1.5 million in 1997/98 to R138 million in 2013/14.
The current figure stands at 4.4 million kg of wool marketed through the formal sector with a monetary value of R233 million in 2015/16.