|Wool Buyers Stress Concerns
(March 1, 2008) As American wool exports have increased to 75 percent of the U.S. clip, up from 30 percent 20 years ago, producers must focus on quality because U.S. wools are increasingly being compared with the quality of Australian wools.
Wool company officials, Rick Honaker, Entrenos Inc., and Jason Bannowsky, Lempriere USA Inc., shared how wool buying and processing has changed over the last 10 years to the American Sheep Industry Association Board of Directors.
“The days of not testing your wool are gone,” said Bannowsky. “Negative images take awhile to get past even though not all wools have the same problem. Everywhere we go we’re really stressing the importance of this problem. We don’t want to risk the reputation any further.”
Bannowsky said the industry continues to deal with the same issues, like contamination from poly twine and colored fibers.
“One of the biggest problems we now face is contamination from hair sheep,” he added. “Hair does not take dye. It has zero value to our firm. Don’t run hair sheep with wool sheep.”
Dye-resistant fibers such as these dramatically limit any textile use of the product and make business overseas more difficult. If growers run both wool breeds and hair breeds, keep the animals totally separate to avoid any possibility of cross-over and to assist in building a superior reputation for U.S. wools.
Honaker echoed Bannowsky’s concerns.
“When we buy wool for export, it needs to be what it is we say it is,” said Honaker, citing the need for good nylon packaging and zero contamination. “We need to address and police our own situation.”
Currency fluctuation represents a high risk for wool buyers. The change in rates from the time wool is purchased to when it is sold can be very different. In addition to currency risk for the wool buyer, some changes in sheep production have also led to increased contamination risks for exported wool. Contamination leads to claims against the wool buyer and, due to wool blending at the processor level, a small amount of contamination can result is a huge amount of non-usable wool product, hence costing the buyer far more than the price paid to the grower.
Another change that has taken place is the number of combing plants in operation in the United States. In the 1990s, three combing plants consumed nearly 50 million pounds of greasy wool per year and now only one plant remains, using 10 million pounds of greasy wool annually.