10 Nov 2009

Fine wool groups hit by loss of funding

5:03 pm on 10 November 2009

Fine wool organisations are asking "Where to from here?" as they ponder the loss of funding from Meat and Wool New Zealand.

It is cutting spending by more than $6 million a year after farmers voted not to renew its wool levy.

Included in the cuts are $100 to $150,000 a year to Merino New Zealand Incorporated, which organises and funds research in the fine wool sector.

Funding for projects to improve the productivity and efficiency of merino sheep and an animal welfare programme will end in April next year, when the levy runs out.

Merino New Zealand's chair Tom Rowley says most of the projects it's currently financing were due to finish soon anyway.

But he says the loss of the wool levy will still have a big impact.

Mr Rowley says the fine wool industry could consider applying to raise its own levy.

The New Zealand Merino Company, which markets most of the fine wool clip, is another discussing what will be needed to plug the gaps.

Chief executive John Brackenridge says it's been carrying out research and innovation since its formation eight years ago, using Meat and Wool funding as well as fees paid by the farmers who supply the wool.

The Agricultural Industry Training Organisation is in the same boat as the merino sector.

It's been getting $300,000 a year from Meat and Wool New Zealand to supplement the cost of providing shearing and wool handling courses.

That funding will also stop in April.