The emergence of a global emphasis on natural products suggests the strong-wool industry is "on the cusp of better times", industry leader John Dawson says.
Dawson, a more than 40-year veteran in the industry, was appointed chief executive of New Zealand Wool Services International in 2015 and is chairman of the National Council of New Zealand Wool Interests.
The industry was at a "new exciting beginning" and he implored all involved to move forward together, he said.
The main focus had to be lifting returns to growers and — if that happened — then all sectors would benefit, he said.
A wool working group, comprising industry representatives, was established last year to look at opportunities to improve returns for crossbred wool.
Any new structure to come out of that group had to be totally non-commercial and transparent, otherwise trust would be destroyed, Dawson said.
More than 80 per cent of the wool produced in New Zealand was 32 micron or coarser, he said. All the sectors involved in the procurement and marketing of New Zealand crossbred wool were struggling with markets and costs.
The price levels being received could be explained by two main factors — severe unchecked competition from man-made fibres over the past two decades and a lack of wool promotion, he said.
As a result, New Zealand crossbred wool had suffered badly and those companies involved in advocating synthetic fibres had manipulated carpet standards over the years and been clever in making wool carpets now appear to be of substandard quality, he said.
But things were starting to change and in a very positive way.
Four companies now controlled 80 per cent of New Zealand's wool exports, which was "unheard of", but there was a positive side to it as it enabled more meaningful dialogue to take place in the industry, he said.
When it came to industry co-operation, under the national council, the industry was talking about ways that could "only be described as very positive".
The industry was actively involving itself with education providers, which was a very positive development as the sector needed new blood, he said.