At the launch of Wool Week Port Elizabeth 2016 presented by Cape Wools – which will showcase fashion, décor, design and craft uses of wool from 30 March until 2 April 2016 through an exhibition in Walmer Park Shopping Centre and through various activities at the Wool Hub – some fascinating facts around wool and the industry in Port Elizabeth emerged.
Wool Week 2016 will be the first Wool Week to take place in Port Elizabeth. This is an annual international initiative supported by the Campaign for Wool and the South African wool industry and will include a range of workshops and daily Merino shearing and sheep dog shepherding demonstrations at the Wool Hub.
Against a background of decreasing numbers of farmers the wool industry has continued to grow in value if not volume – helped by an increasing scarcity of product and a sagging rand. The price growth to the farmer per kilogram since 2000 has seen a 600% increase in price on the back of a fall in production from a high of 140 million kilograms in 1950 to 50 million kilograms of wool produced in 2015.
South Africa produces that 50 million kilograms of wool per year from an estimated 15 million sheep on farms in South Africa. Record prices reach over R141.00 per kilogram.
One of the objectives of Wool Week is to; “Entice young entrepreneurs to turn to wool sheep farming as it makes commercial sense,” says Cape Wool CEO Louis de Beer.
The aim of the wool industry through Wool Week is to add another 25 million kilograms to South Africa’s production and as De Beer says; “Another 5 million merino sheep could mean an additional 12 500 jobs.”
Over the road from Cape Wools is BKB who sort, grade and export the wool from farmers all over the region. BKB General Manager, Isak Staats is very proud of the facility and boasted today that the smallest farmer who only sells 750 grams of wool to BKB every year; “… gets exactly the same price for his wool as the largest farmer who sells over a hundred thousand kilograms of wool.”
I could see the assembled hacks trying to work out if they could get a sheep or two into their backyards to shear and sell wool from.
The over 4.5 hectares of space occupied by BKB house between 200 and 300 Million Rands of wool most of which is exported to China through around 20 brokers.
Very interesting is that a number of deaf people are employed on the sorting floor and the feedback is that these employees are stand out people with a high work ethic.
Of the 1 250 different grades of wool a number of products are made – some of which will be featured at Wool Week when the wool industry showcases up-and-coming designer’s work including pieces from the winners of the Merino student design competition. There will be an opportunity for the public to meet a few of the designers in person on Wednesday 30 March. Tamara Cherie Dyson (Elle Rising Star Winner), Thabo Mkhetha and Thula Sindi will be available from 15:00 – 16:30 at the display where their pieces will be exhibited in Walmer Park.
Other interesting non-fashion items using wool are items like plasters in the medical industry, some fascinating work in needle point felting and an insulation material which sandwiches wool between two sections of recycled PET (from bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate) for a product with a smaller footprint, higher insulation property and increased resistance to flame.
Wool Week Port Elizabeth 2016 this year will include:
- The Wool Week Static Expo between 30 March – 2 April showcasing fashion and décor
- The Wool Hub which showcases arts, crafts and design at the DF Malherbe Sports field (access gain be gained from Walmer Park Shopping Centre car park) 09:00 – 17:00
- Daily sheepdog shepherding demonstrations which will take place at the Wool Hub between 11:00 – 12:00 and 15:00 – 16:00 from 30 March until 1 April 2016
- Daily merino sheep shearing demonstration which will take place daily between 12:00 – 13:00 and 16:00 – 17:00 from 30 March until 2 April (please note that there will only be one demonstration on Saturday from 12:00 – 13:00)
- Daily workshops in the Wool Hub which range from Wool felting to looming a beanie.
Related: MyPE Image: Cape Wools SA.
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