Gilbert Davidson from Roberts Ltd with Nigel Leow from Malaysian-based Compass Wool Processors who was on a fact-finding trip to Australia. PHOTO: Australian Broadcasting Corporation Library Sales.
The opening of Compass Wool Processors (CWP) shows there is confidence in the future of the wool industry, and as CWP business manager Stefan Bernerius says, the plant aims to be an integral part of the supply chain by late-2014.
“Our first wool bales have already arrived from Australia and we plan to have regular commercial production by the fourth quarter of 2013,” Mr Bernerius said. “By the same time next year we are aiming to be at full capacity.
“Our customers are an integral part of the world supply chain and we will give our customers a real option of where they can process their wool with integrity, quality and service at competitive costing.”
CWP is a subsidiary of Singapore’s NK Ingredients, a major buyer of wool grease for lanolin, which was having difficulty with a consistent supply of high quality wool grease. And so the concept of CWP was born, with the aim of building a high-quality wool processing plant that would be attractive to the world’s topmakers and spinners, and according to Mr Bernerius will act as an alternative to China and India.
“Logistically, it made sense to set up in Malaysia. It is a central hub for both the origin countries and the consumer countries; there is a stable government, energy and costs; no VAT, duty, customs or quarantine issues; and Malaysia’s warm and humid climate is perfect for wool processing.”
By the end of 2014 it is estimated that 250,000 bales – or 45 million greasy kilograms – of wool will be scoured each year at CWP. Mr Bernerius estimates that 60-70 per cent of the wool will come from Australia, with the main type being Merino wool of 17.5 to 25 microns.
“We will also plan on processing fine wool of 14 to 17 microns, crossbreeds of about 26 to 32 microns, and carpet wools of a broader 34 to 40 microns will also be considered.”
With Australia being CWP’s major supplier, it makes sense to have someone with wealth of knowledge of Australia’s wool industry at the plant’s helm.
“I worked in the Australian wool industry for about 25 years, from the shearing shed all the way through to yarns and fabrics and everything in between. I value the importance of connecting and engaging with Australia’s wool producers at a grassroots level and we have been travelling to Australia every three to four months to see potential customers and partners.
“We would like to show that we are not only processors in Asia, but we are working with and helping the entire supply chain at all levels, helping it develop and grow.”
Strict environmental standards will also apply as part of the overall integrity standards that CWP strives to meet. About 50 per cent of all water will be recycled, and the plant will work towards the highest EU environmental standards.
“We will also apply for several eco-certifications such as OEKO-TEX® 100, all chemicals will be EU REACH-approved and our water disposal will need to meet very stringent compliance standards.”
The Woolmark Company general manager product development and commercialisation, Jimmy Jackson, visited the new multi-million dollar processing plant on a recent trip to South-East Asia.
“It is great to see significant investment in new factories, which can clean and comb our wool,” Mr Jackson said. “An investment like Compass bodes well for the future of the Australian woolgrowing industry and cements faith in the efforts of woolgrowers across Australia.”