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The New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) and Government’s Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) have announced a $36 million, 5-year initiative designed to amplify the momentum and economic returns for the fine wool and associated products.

NZM in collaboration with its supply chain partners will contribute $21 million to the initiative, with $15 million being funded by PGP, according to a press release.

With demand now starting to exceed supply on the back of partnerships in the active outdoors markets with companies such as New Zealand’s own Icebreaker and USA Company SmartWool, NZM has resisted the temptation to move to offshore procurement, but rather will look to grow the supply base from this country.

A number of new relationships in the luxury and superfine suiting markets provide further confidence to this initiative.

In an integrated programme involving science, technology and innovative global market solutions, New Zealand wool will be grown for specific end retail markets and extend into an array of other income streams for New Zealand’s sheep farmers such as meat, lanolin and leather goods.

Key to the initiative will be a focus on productivity gains and production shifts to assist in meeting the additional market demand generated.

NZM Chairman John Nichol acknowledged the role of Government in establishing the PGP. “The process has been robust and at times demanding but it has forced us to further raise the bar in our thinking regarding sector innovation, integration and in particular value capture for farmers and the broader New Zealand economy”.

He is excited by the strategic initiative and is buoyed by buoyed by the new opportunities that have already emerged as a result of the enthusiasm and genuine excitement from partners in the consultation process.

Chief Executive John Brakenridge says it is NZM’s stated goal to be a New Zealand primary sector exemplar.

“The New Zealand primary industry has huge untapped potential. We have world class production science agencies such as AgResearch, we have highly professional farming producers, but the missing link for the broader New Zealand primary sector has been a sophisticated market interface,” he says.

NZM says the PGP funding will allow it to not only ramp up its market innovation and production science work but to align all the parts of the primary sector investment, including greater synergies with other government agencies such as the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.

NZM will also build on international networks such as that with Stanford University in the USA, with three leading students from the Stanford Graduate School of Business completing their international study at NZM.

“This is just one of a number of relationships that NZM is building with Stanford to ensure we are at the forefront of international marketing, technology and design thinking,” says  Brakenridge.

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