Part 1: Where the industry has been…the past.
Founder and Managing Director of New Zealand Cashmere, David Shaw, developed a strong interest in cashmere fibre during his university days back in the 1980’s when cashmere was being touted as an industry with a future. The idea of farming goats had initially been investigated by the Ministry of Agriculture in the 1970’s and gained momentum in the early 1980’s when Dawson International ( a global textile conglomerate) moved into Australia and New Zealand offering 5-year supply contracts. By 1985 500,000 goats were being farmed peaking in 1988 at 1,338,000.
At the time farmers were looking for diversification after suffering tough times in some of their traditional markets. The government of the day made investing in a range of agri-businesses very attractive by offering tax advantages, which often included major write-offs in the first year. Significant investment flowed from major players like Kiwi Cashmere, Cashmere Pacific, Woodstock and Arpac. These firms all invested in feral based animals and sophisticated breeding techniques. Large numbers of Australian animals including complete flocks were imported into New Zealand to speed growth. By the mid 1980’s 1 in 6 farms across New Zealand ran some goats.
In 1987 the commercial environment changed dramatically with Black Monday. The New Zealand stock market crashed along with markets around the world. During this period there was also change of government in New Zealand who changed the rules around goat farming. The Chinese Government also changed their cashmere export rules at this time creating even more headwinds for the fledgling New Zealand cashmere industry. The combined effect from all of these events put the cashmere industry on ice and stalled what should have been, could have been and would have been a premium export opportunity for New Zealand farmers.