South Africa is the second largest apparel (fine wool) producer in world after Australia, generating R900 million per annum.
Total wool sales contributed R1.1 billion to the South African economy in 2006/7. Wool is produced throughout South Africa, however key production areas lie in the drier regions of the country, including the Eastern Cape (25.1 percent of the national clip), the Free State (24.1 percent), the Western Cape (19.9 percent), Northern Cape (12.5 percent) and Mpumalanga (7.7 percent). Approximately 90 percent of wool produced in South Africa is exported, predominantly to the UK, Germany, Japan, China, France, Italy, South Korea and Taiwan, Province of China.
Current wool production practices pose certain pressures on the environment. Overgrazing of livestock and desertification reduce rangeland productivity, which may reduce production capacity and has increased land degradation. Another threat is indiscriminant lethal predator control methods used to protect livestock. Many farmers use lethal trapping methods (poisoning and gin traps) to deter predators from killing livestock. These methods are aimed at target species, such as leopard, caracal, jackal, badgers and birds of prey, but indiscriminately kill other species such as tortoises, aardvarks, porcupines and buck.
In addition, killing a top predator not only threatens the functioning of an ecosystem, but also attracts other predators into the region, and has been shown to increase livestock losses. In addition, chemicals in the form of residual pesticides used on greasy wool are a major threat to the environment and the image of the South African wool industry. In response, the National Wool Growers’ Association has developed wool industry guidelines for sustainable Wool and Mohair production.
In response to changing global demand for more sustainable wool products, NWGA has developed a set of guidelines for best practice production.
The guidelines are based on three core pillars:
- animal well-being
- sustainable resource management
- social well-being
The guideline criteria are based on several existing global certification schemes (e.g. EU standards; GlobalGap, organic standards).
In 2009, the NWGA produced the Sustainable Mohair Industry Production Guidelines based on environmental, social and economic principles in association with the Green Choice Alliance.