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Australian peak body calls for better marketing for ethical wool

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The peak body for Australian superfine wool growers says farmers will continue to fail to earn premium prices unless they can market ethical production to retailers. Australian Superfine Wool Growers Association vice president Noel Henderson said there was only a negligible price premium for the industry.

Mr Henderson is the principal of Avington Merino Stud in central Victoria, and said it had been tough in the industry for a long time. He said it was clear retailers were not paying for product alone.

“The finer micron wool at say 14 or 15 micron are really at the moment pretty much on par with wool that’s 17, 18, 19 microns,” he said. “So there’s no price differential at the moment.”

Mr Henderson said many producers were abandoning superfine wool production altogether, while others were remaining in the industry simply because they were “driven by passion”. He said to remain competitive, the industry needed to win over retailers by promoting things such as ethical production and traceability. This included adopting compulsory electronic tagging and moving away from the controversial practice of mulesing.

“The Australian Superfine Wool Growers are looking hard at how to develop guidelines for their members that will make them acceptable on an international scale,” Mr Henderson said. “And as a result of that, improve their price.”

Low prices could point to oversupply. Gippsland wool broker Mal Nicholls said oversupply was largely to blame for the lack of premium prices for superfine wool. At a recent annual merino ram sale in Gippsland, Victoria, Mr Nicholls oversaw a record clearance rate and strong prices. But Mr Nicholls said it was clear the one area where farmers were not spending was in superfine wool traits.He said it simply came down to supply and demand.

“There’s a lot of superfine wool grown in Australia now, so the quantity pressure is on those sheep,” he said. With the strength of the prime lamb market, Mr Nicholls said producers could not rely on a niche wool market. “Lamb, meat, mutton, combined with wool are making wool-growing a very profitable enterprise,” he said. “But a big part of that is the mutton and the lamb.”

Source: ABC Rural

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