A group of influential Chinese wool buyers had the chance to see where their raw product came from when they visited a Wimbledon woolshed last week.
Cavalier Woolscourers hosted the delegation of Chinese wool industry leaders from the Nanjing Wool Market on a 10-day study tour of New Zealand and the visit to Brian Hales Wimbledon farm gave them the chance to experience a day in the shearing shed and to soak up the history of the building, built in 1886. Some of the Chinese visitors also jumped at the chance to be the man-power for the 128-year-old wool press still used today.
This group represents some of the largest and most important wool buying companies in China, Nigel Hales, the chief executive of Cavalier Woolscourers, said.
There is nothing like feeling and handling the wool and understanding our quality systems first-hand. One of the keys to this tour is showcasing our systems from the farm to export.
China now purchases more than 50 per cent of the New Zealand wool clip and is a growing market for our exports, Nigel said.
For his brother Brian it was a chance to show off his top-quality fleece, but he admitted that returns are nothing flash.
But it (wool) grows and you've got to shear and so we try to promote our wool through companies such as those here today, because its the Chinese who are buying, he said. When I first started farming here wool provided 30 per cent of my income, cattle 30 per cent and meat 30 per cent. Now wool only accounts for 3 to 5 per cent of my income.
Nigel said the Wimbledon wool was likely to be exported to China and manufactured into carpet.
"The Nanjing Wool Market Group is a very influential body within the Chinese wool industry. It is responsible for issuing quota for wool imports into China and liaises with central government over policy and dispute resolution matters," he said.
The tour group also included representatives from the China SDIC International Trade Nanjing Company which is listed as being the number one importer of wool into China, importing more than 10 per cent of all wool that enters the country.
"It's important this group understand our industry, Nigel said. This tour is helping our relationship grow."
Ross George, managing director of investment company Direct Capital, told the Dannevirke News it had been very good for New Zealand to get the Chinese to visit here. Mr George, formerly a private equity manager in Hong Kong, speaks fluent Cantonese, but started life as a shearer and admitted he still loved stepping up on to the boards.
Originally from north of Ashhurst, Mr George has done his time in the shearing sheds, veteran shearer Neil Weggery said. He was a handy shearer in his time, he said.
And to prove a point, Mr George got rid of his corporate clobber and pulled on a shearers singlet to step up as one of the Clarke Shearing team for the early afternoon run.