NWGA annual congress 2019 Feedback Report

Bonita Francis
 July 08, 2019
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The 90th congress of the National Woolgrowers’ Association of SA was hosted from 12 to 13 June in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape.  More than 200 delegates convened at the congress to discuss and influence the future of the South African wool producer.  Herewith a brief summary of the presentations with links to more detailed reports as well as some of the presentations.
Opening and Welcome – Guillau du Toit
National Chairman, Mr. Guillau du Toit delivered his Chairman’s report for the period July 2018 – June 2019.  He lent a sympathetic ear to those farmers who suffered and are still suffering at the hands of the current drought.  As climate risks are creating new challenges, farmers need to ask themselves how can they remain competitive.
The wool market experienced an unprecedented increase during the first 3 auctions to continue with its super cycle.  From there, the market flattened for the rest of the season, but quality merino wool still obtaining good prices.  This should most definitely be the end of the super cycle.  Farmers are rejoicing to still continue to enjoy high prices in an extremely difficult economic year.  However, the outbreak of foot and mouth disease placed a damper on the wool market with specifically short wool coming under pressure.

Read here for full report
Operational report – Mr. Leon de Beer
General Manager, Leon de Beer delivered an operational report of activities for the past year 2018/19 and highlighted the achievements under the Cape Wools SA contract in terms of commercial production, sheep shearer training and communal production.  He expressed satisfaction with the 8/10 grading that NWGA production advisory services received from an independent firm contracted by CWSA.

Within the commercial sector, 631 farmers participated in reproduction study groups, 1 033 farm workers were trained ; 311 producers and their farm workers attended predation management courses ; 27 monitor farms country wide investigating the best predation practices and 58 farmer tours to successful producers.  Within the shearer training component, 786 learners were trained in beginner blade, intermediate blade, instructor blade, beginner machine as well as intermediate machine courses.

The NWGA conducts communal infrastructure development and during the course of the year, 4 shearing sheds were constructed with three sets of equipment at Luigero.
The success of communal development by the NWGA received a 9.9/10 grading from the Lightstone survey and the highlights for the year was as follows:
Genetic improvement (rams)                     -              2 999
Number of training courses                       -              280
Farmers attending                                    -              6 025
Flock competition                                     -              12
Wool classing demonstrations / mentorship                202
Information days                                      -              99
Participants in economic study groups         -              44
Sheep weighing projects                            -              20

Keynote address – Dr. Frans Cronjé, SA Institution for Race Relations (SAIRR)
Dr. Frans Cronje provided congress with a strategic intelligence briefing on the rise or fall of South Africa in the 2020’s and its influence on the South African wool producer and used data produced by the Centre for Risk Analysis (CRA) to arrive at certain scenarios.
He evaluated graphs and indexes relating to the rate of growth of South Africa’s economy from 1978 – 2021, key relationships that have been influenced by GPD growth, households without electricity, people who are confident in SA’s future, ANC support, violent protests as a share of all protests as well as year to year jobs.
A graph indicating key relationships from 1994 until now, shows the proportion of households without electricity in SA of 50% in 1994 when the ANC came into power, and a decade later, bringing it down to 20% - extraordinary achievement in this Country.  However, over the past decade, progress that had to be made has been interrupted, stagnated and reversed, with severe consequences for the country.  The year on year change in the formal sector of job creation from 1994 follows the poor performance of the economy it is the advice that if you are confident of raising levels of job creation and replicate what happened between 2004 – 2007 when jobs increased from 10% - 45%, then you can be reasonably certain that levels of confidence in the future will rise and protest actions will diminish.
He looked at the education profile of people aged 20+ over time which indicates that in 1995, 13% were recorded to have no education and in 2017, the figure decreased to 4.6%.  Nearly 28% of people matriculated in 1995, with the current figure of 42.5% who matriculated in 2017. 
The graphs indicated unemployment rates (official) by race versus total job numbers and total unemployment.  The number of employed people from 1994 until now has doubled.  However, the number of unemployed people grew even faster, with the unemployment rate for black South Africans remaining at levels between 35% in the past 30 years.
From all the statistics and recording of data, the ideological modernization predicts 4 processes for South Africa in the next decade:
·         On the back of a strong showing in the 2019 poll, reformers stamp their authority on the ANC.
·         Significant austerity measures are introduced.
·         Failing state owned firms are sold
·         Private sector is central to economic recovery efforts.
·         Empowerment policy is reworked.
·         Property rights are secured.
·         Labour market is deregulated and skilled immigration encouraged.
·         Authority over schools and policing is increasingly devolved into communities.
·         Corrupt politicians and related parties are tried and jailed in significant numbers.
·         Racist nationalist incitement stops.
·         Employment numbers rise sharply in unison with investment levels, while living standards resume the upward trajectory last seen in the decade to 2007.
The Fall
·         Emboldened by a clear electoral majority dogmatic ideologues, racial nationalists and state-capture suspects in the ANC eject reformers.
·         A swift assault on property rights sets up a sharp erosion of civil liberties and the rule of law.
·         Significant rights abuses follow.
·         Capital and skills flight accelerates.
·         The currency suffers a precipitous decline.
·         Wealth extraction is prioritized over growth.
·         ANC support dives into 2024 leading to reunification with the EFF. 
·         The government mortgages the country’s assets to an external creditor.
·         South Africa slips into a decade deep recession amidst a steep decline in living standards joining the ranks of failed post-colonial African states.
The Takeover
·         The ANC gets a reasonable majority, but little by way of reform materializes.
·         Token reforms and gimmicks are insufficient to raise growth as job creation stagnates and internal stability deteriorates.
·         Midway through the era, perhaps prompted by a global pullback, debt and deficit levels push South Africa into a fiscal crises amidst a sharp deterioration in living standards.
·         The fiscal crises attracts an external benefactor. 
·         The ANC in government, desperate in the face of future defeat / coalitions, surrenders policy sovereignty to the benefactor opening the way to changes in policy direction which allow growth and investment levels to show some upward inclination towards the end of the era.
The Fragmentation
·         Factionalism and modernist / traditionalist tensions paralyse the ANC leaving policy contradictions intact.
·         Growth underperforms EM norms by 50% +.
·         Job creation stagnates.
·         Real value of welfare payments fall.
·         Fiscal obstacles undermine patronage networks – collectively delivering a 2024 coalition government. 
·         But the coalitions are fatally fraught and paralyse the government.
·         Without any effective central authority, and amidst deteriorating social cohesion, South Africa fragments into four sets of parallel authorities;
a)      Corrupt localized political fiefdoms (territory controlled by person or group)
b)      Near-feudal rural fiefdoms
c)       Gang-controlled urban slums; and
d)      Private middle-class enclaves – that plays a role in cross-subsidising the broader society.
Promotion and sustainable wool market  – Marshall Allender
Through educational projects and consumer driven activations, the Campaign for Wool aim to educate the public on the natural benefits of wool.  This was the message to congress from Marshall Allender, Campaign for wool.  He unpacked the question if promotion is necessary for a sustainable wool market, and how the Campaign for Wool complies to that.
The Campaign for Wool is a global initiative started by His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales in 2010 and they continue to operate internationally with funding partners, who cover every sector of the wool market. 
The importance of promoting wool
Wool only represents 1.2% of global fibre consumption.  Although wool is one of the most valuable fibres available, the Campaign’s experience has been that upmarket consumers are much more aware of the inherit quality of wool, while the majority of consumers do not educate themselves on the ingredients or providence of what they buy.  Without obvious advertising or input from a third party (IWTO etc.), the average consumer will fall back to the lowest common denominators of price and style, regardless of the fibre being used in the garment.
Mr. Allender illustrated a recent case study that was done during the global wool week 2018 and highlighted some global and South African campaigns for wool events. 
Wool is promoted through direct, interactive, consumer facing events, marketing and PR projects with global retailers and brands, through digital and social media influence and lastly through the support of the Campaign’s patron, HRH The Prince of Wales.

He accentuated the power of social media and digital promotion and provided some statistics in 2018.


19,393 posts
31 million impressions
41% positive sentiment
23 online articles across 2018
5 videos with over 200K views
Social media followers:
Facebook             -              55K
Instagram            -              18,7K
Twitter                 -              22.7K


International (IWTO) activities  – Dalena White
Dalena White, General Secretary gave an overview of the IWTO and its activities.  IWTO is an international non-profit organization, with the secretariat based in Brussels.  All final decisions are taken by the members during the General Assembly at the annual congress.  The bulk of the work is conducted through working groups and committees, where chairmen and members offer their time and resources, free of charge, for the good of the whole industry. She showed the structure which comprises of the General Assembly, Heads of Delegation, President and the Executive Committees.  She introduced the IWTO Executive Committee with newly elected South African President, Mr. Wolf Edmayr to congress. 
The IWTO has 37 members from 23 countries and represent the full wool pipeline, from farm to fashion.  The IWTO hosts 2 events per year with 300 delegates attending the annual congress and about 100 members attending the IWTO Wool Round Table.  It is during these meetings and social break networking opportunities where the South African wool producer is being represented.
The IWTO is responsible for various publications, fact sheets, wool policy report, market information, newsletter, IWTO webpage and social media.
White elaborated on 13 trade fairs and industry meetings held between January – June 2019 and the IWTO’s involvement in all of these.  IWTO Congress in Venice in April drew a large contingency of South African representation, including NWGA leadership.
Her presentation included current projects generated by working groups, i.e.
1)      Sustainable practices working group – research to quantify the sustainability aspects of wool
2)      IWTO is a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), committed to supply the best possible data on wool’s environmental footprint.
3)      Product wellness working group – benefits of wool in sleep patterns and how fine wool garments can support eczema patients.
4)      Wool sheep welfare working group – provides a summary of animal welfare legislation and country specific information.
5)      Wool Trade Biosecurity working group – Dr. George de Kock, South Africa is in conversation with the OIE regarding raw wool storage temperatures and updating the current regulation.
Dalena concluded by introducing the IWTO team in Brussels and extended an invitation to South African delegates to attend the IWTO Round Table meeting in Queensland, New Zealand from 2 – 3 December 2019.
International Congress report – Leon de Beer
Mr. Leon de Beer reported on his recent attendance of the International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO) congress which took place in Venice from 9 – 11 April 2019.  The annual congress was attended by 320 delegates and 25 young professionals from 25 countries and the theme was “Wool in Excellence”.
The global sheep population figure of 1 177 869 million measured in China, Australia, Commonwealth Independent States, New Zealand and South Africa, shows South Africa as the smallest component with 23 million sheep, with a 2% wool production and 42 500 tons of wool which is contributed to the global market.
Discussions and networking opportunities with :
Chinese delegation on the January outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease and wool exports
Australia on a veterinary / biosecurity strategy
Lesotho woolgrowers
In conclusion, congress delegates were told that the wool market will soften from very thigh prices (super cycle), but will remain steady……. Decline in supply will support prices.  Sustainability is driven by the market and includes practices that are good for the environment, animal welfare, traceability, transparency and bio-degradable.
Mr. De Beer thanked Voermol for the sponsorship and opportunity of attending the conference.
Increase Production – Analytical aid for the farmer  – Deon Saayman
Farmers were informed of an Analytical aid for the wool producer that has been developed specifically for the benefit of the wool farmer and launched about a month ago and is free of charge for initial period of 12 months.
Deon Saayman, CEO for Cape Wools SA said that this online tool is to aid farmer in doing longterm analysis of clips, thereby increasing the potential for profitability.  He used an example of a 12 year clip profile where greasy mass, clean yield, average micron, average yield etc. has been recorded and the farmer can measure himself against region / district, province and even national clips.  The information is unique to each producer and available to himself only.
The tool is further helpful in the sense that comparatives such as value in rand, price in US dollar terms can be measured and that one can even compare oneself to the Australian market indicator. 
To access the analytical aid, farmers can visit the Cape Wools SA website.  To date, more than 200 farmers have signed up over a short period of time.
Sustainable marketing – Code of Best Practice   – Deon Saayman
Congress was referred to an article in 2009 by Greenchoice Alliance which makes mention of the foresight of the NWGA in terms of creating a code of best practice and Deon Saayman, CWSA was of the opinion that those initial thoughts and strategy was years’ ahead of its time and it has now become necessary to see how this can align with international practices.  He referred to the 17 sustainable development goals of the United Nations and specifically highlighted no. 12 Responsible consumption and production and no. 15 Life on Land. and what must South Africa do to fit into these goals.
Ethical Fashion
Ethical fashion is an umbrella term to describe ethical fashion design, production, retail and purchasing and it covers a range of issues such as working conditions, exploitation, fair trade, sustainable production, the environment and animal welfare.
What is Sustainability ?
Sustainability focuses on meeting the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.  The concept of sustainability is composed of three pillars, namely economic, environmental, and social – also known informally as profits, planet and people.  Now one has to look at it within animal fibre context and this is where animal welfare and biodiversity comes in.
Brands are looking at the circular economy or from cradle to cradle whereby substances of concern are phased out and the utilization of clothing is increased, thereby radically improving recycling and making effective use of resources and move to renewable inputs.  It has become important to close the loop by having zero waste and a good example of such new concepts is YCLOSET, a rental service for clothing.  The Chinese consumer is radically changing and the platform had over 5 million active users in 2017.
He referred to Production standards and specifically highlighted ZQ merino, which is a standard that was created because the market required it.  Other examples such as iseal alliance, Responsible Wool Standard, Global Recycled Standard and Responsible Down Standard is all driven by demand and has a place in the global market.
Brands / Consumers are looking for trust in the raw material supply chain as well as visibility rather than traceability.  However, traceability cannot be achieved without visibility.  The wool industry is in a favorable position as they already have dedicated farmers who are farming sustainably and following ethical principles.
What is required:
A sustainable wool production guideline aligned with international standards
Guidelines set by Industry and implemented across the board
Well trained and competent advisors to roll out the guidelines
User-friendly electronic assessments
Fully integrated traceability platform
How will this be achieved ?
Cape Wools SA will focus on 3 key areas:
Sustainability, by creating an integrated sustainability platform
Biosecurity, by driving the process through a biosecurity specialist and coordinated strategy and also involving the IWTO to create a biosecurity strategy.
Transformation, by cooperating and aligning goals with the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC)
In other words,
Create a level of adherence and a standard within the industry that is sustainable wool (this is the way that it is produced in SA).  Bearing in mind that there are many other standards in SA and working with these standards to create something that is implementable and user-friendly for the farmer, whereafter it is brought into an integrated platform.
Firstly, to create a platform for the producer to do a self-evaluation, should he feels there is a need to do that.  Thereafter to do on-farm assessment and bring all this information (WTB testing results, biosecurity info) onto integrated platform.  By doing this, we can ensure to mitigate risks should an outbreak occur, and make it as easy as possible for the State Veterinarian to sign off the necessary documentation.
For the next year at least, NWGA production advisors will be used to assist with on farm assessments, which will create a level of compliance within the industry.
If a farmer has been certified by different standards, it will not be necessary to have different audits on his farm.  It will only be necessary to have profile on integrated platform and available to international users.
One must aim to position oneself as a brand (fibre) for a particular market, thereby minimizing risk as producer and for the industry and creating trust that brands / retailers / consumers want.
Saayman believes that the SA wool has a competitive advantage and that the industry must put something in place that distinguish SA wool in the international market and create a product that the market wants in the future.

Profitability & sustainability of wool products to SA consumer – Monica Ebert
BKB’s Core Merino International Brand Ambassador Manager Monica Ebert, shared her experience of running her first Comrades marathon in a Core Merino wool T-shirt and elaborated on the wonderful attributes of the fibre.  She is surprised that South African consumers do not really buy wool products, especially in the mid-price range, where the Core products are priced.  She is ever more surprised about the fact that less than 2% of people do online purchases in South Africa, as Core is mostly sold online and not in stores.  She encouraged delegates not only to wear wool to special events, but to make a conscious effort to wear wool every day and to tell people about the attributes of wool. 

She referred to the IWTO fact sheets, which are very informative, but sees the need to work collectively with the IWTO and Campaign for Wool and others to change the wardrobes of people.
As she is passionate about wool and wants to inspire people to think differently about every purchase they make and to think how it will influence the environment, their own lives and the lives of their family.  She used the example of plastic water bottles at congress how alternatives such as steel, glass or other bottles should be considered.  Important that every farmer be wool and environmental advocates. 
Sustainable marketing - Clip fault reports – Louis du Pisani
The 11 clip faults were listed and Dr. Louis du Pisani, NWGA National Manager, Production Advice and Development elaborated on the critical classing errors that influence sustainable marketing.  He elaborated on those faults that are logged on inspection of clips and should there be visible faults such as twine, it gets photographed and distributed on whatsapp group.  Since the inception of the initiative in 2010, there has been a drastic decrease in many of the clip faults, especially contamination due to baling twine, plastic and polyprop which showed a decline from 1 600 instances to only 300.
1)      Mixed lengths (more than 20mm variation)
2)      Mixed quality (poorly skirted)
3)      Sweaty pieces in main line
4)      Piece and belly lines urine / dung stained
5)      Contamination :  Bailing twine, plastic
6)      Black hair
7)      Kemp / modulated fibre
8)      Contamination :  Paint, marking ink
9)      Contamination : Cigarette butts, etc.
10)   Contamination : Metal wire, clips etc.
11)   Contamination : Other
Biosecurity – Pieter Vervoort

The importance of biosecurity for the wool producer was the hard pressed issue and the chairman of the National Animal Health Forum started his presentation by explaining that the word BIOSECURITY not only relates to the health of animals, but also the financial health of the producer.  As farmers are producing a biodegradable product that millennials want, he encouraged farmers to give attention to biosecurity on farms, in the industry and offer assistance to the rest of the country, said Dr. Pieter Vervoort, National Animal Health Forum (NAHF).
BIO                         =             LIFE
SECURITY                =             PROTECTION
Why in the Wool Industry ?
What have we learnt in the past 6 months ?
Even a problem that is “far” away, can have devastating consequences
Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD) occurs only in the Northern provinces
           and ASF occurs only in Africa
FMD is not transmitted by wool
……… unless the perception is….
PPR occurs in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia
……… unless it occurs in South Africa
Johne’s is not a trade sensitive disease
………. or should it be ……
What is industry trying to do?
Vendor declarations
Not too much intake
Only for Johne’s
Only for commercial breeders
As long as it does not affect trade in sheep
Dr. Vervoort is convinced that vendor declarations will set the trade for sheep, but to the good of the industry in the long term.  It is however necessary to start thinking on the short term.
Opening international trade
Difficult to negotiate from a position of weakness.  We did nothing, until the problem was upon us.
Let’s try to predict the next problem and do something about it before it happens.  Let us spend time, money and effort doing that.
Dr. Vervoort elaborated on the different diseases that is important to biosecurity in South Africa and refers to them as trade barriers.  It is inevitable that outbreaks will occur and it is senseless to vaccinate when it has happened.  He mentioned the different ways in which diseases are spread, namely sheep; people; transport; arthropods; cattle; game; equipment and wind.  He listed the numerous ways how disease is effectively spread and doing the exact opposite if we want to effectively curb the spread of disease.
He used the example of Johne’s and posed the following questions:
Is it important to the sheep industry?
What is the cost to a farmer? (breeder?)
If you are quarantined, is it a “life sentence”?
Can you keep it out with biosecurity?
Is it “inevitable” that you will get it?
Does the test need to be more accurate? (if you consider one positive (TRUE positive) in a herd to mean the herd (farm) is positive.
If your herd is negative, do you deserve “protection”?
Can you create negative herds from positive herds?
He encouraged farmers to live biosecurity and not think it.  Every decision should involve steps to protect herds from diseases.
Future for communal wool farmers  – Nobody present
This session would have specifically focused on issues relating to communal areas and land reform.  Dr. Moshe Swartz, Dept. Rural Development and Land Reform indicated his presence at the congress to relay the proposal from the Department. Congress noted with disappointment that neither DAFF nor DRDLR was present. 
Sustainable predation management – Niel Viljoen
Knowledge, understanding and experience gained on 27 monitor farms over an 11year period, were shared with delegates.  Predation specialist, Niel Viljoen referred to the toolbox of predation control methods and although he has confidence in most of the methods, he identified and elaborated on fencing, kraaling & Call & Shoot as the best 3 methods.
According to Viljoen, the success of a control method is not measured on how many predators have been killed, but rather on assured growth in weaning percentages that is continuously assured.
He believes that with good planning, followed by good management that is consistently practiced, risk management can be avoided and that land owners who are really focused on predation management rather that predator management, will find success in the control method.

The Woolgrowers of South Africa expressed faith and trust in the leadership of the NWGA by nominating all in the same positions.  Guillau du Toit was unanimously re-elected as National Chairman, Billy van Zyl as Vice Chairman (Commercial) and Sipiwo Makinana as Vice Chairman (Communal).

Congratulations from everyone in the wool fraternity.

View the images of the Congress


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