Poor crowd at WoolPoll forum

Headshot of Bob Garnant
Bob GarnantThe West Australian

Australian Wool Innovation's WoolPoll Roadshow moved to WA this week, with the Katanning meeting, heldon Monday, resulting in a poor turnout.

With only six woolgrowers in attendance in such a prominent wool growing area, it begs the question are growers' levy dollars being spent wisely flying three AWI representatives across the Nullarbor.

After the meeting, _Countryman _contacted prominent woolgrowers in the area who said they were unaware of the meeting.

One of those was Broomehill producer Craig Dewar, who said AWI must use more due diligence to ensure attendance.

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AWI chief executive Stuart McCullough said it was hit and miss with initial grower participation at the opening roadshows, but it was still important to hear directly from woolgrowers.

With WoolPoll voting opening on Monday, WA's 3967 eligible AWI shareholders can choose between levy options of 0, 1, 2, 2.5 and 3 per cent.

Mr McCullough said AWI recommended a 2 per cent vote which was responsive to a dramatic lift in the Eastern Market Indicator price over the past five years, averaging 1084 cents/kg clean from October 2010 to August 2015.

"But this won't keep farmers in wool; we need to lift the average EMI to 1200c/kg, while contending with an oversupply of fine wool," he said.

Other challenges for AWI include reversing the shrinking wool clip as pure Merino ewe matings continue their 25-year gradual decrease.

Mr McCullough said AWI would continue its 60/40 marketing/on-farm, off-farm research funding split over the next three-year period.

"Marketing strategies, including knitwear and woven wear, are not micron specific," he said

Mr McCullough said AWI had developed a wool-blend fabric in which major retailer Adidas had ordered 9000sqm for trialling wind and waterproof sportswear.

"Our target is the Northern Hemisphere where 98 per cent of the apparel wool is consumed by larger populations with growing affluence and who live in colder temperatures," he said.

Mr McCullogh said AWI's "No Finer Feeling" campaign had gained 86 partners and the International Woolmark Prize competition was a guarantee for winner's collections being made available into major retail outlets.

"AWI's $3.5 million dollar investment in the Campaign for Wool returned $4.80 for every dollar invested," he said.

Mr McCullough has taken interest in developing new software for wool production specific farm automation.

"Wool growing is a hard game in which could be made easier with the use of electronic technology to do more of the work," he said.

Mr McCullough said AWI's Wool Systems Selling Review was justified. "There has been no modernisation in the present auction system in 100 years," he said.

"It makes no sense that 95 per cent of Australia's wool is marketed through open cry.

"The WSSR will expose the actual costs of the present system and tell us how they can be reduced."

AWI marketing and communication manager Marius Cuming said WA football fans could expect to see the Dockers' Brownlow medal favourite Nat Fyfe's Fibre of Football video aired on national TV during the Brownlow medal program on September 28.

"The Fibre of Football campaign was launched as a way to fight back against animal activists and bring back some social licence to wool production," he said.

AWI general manager of research and development Paul Swan said the key R&D priorities included wild dog control, flystrike and wool harvesting.

"Also of great concern is the changing ewe flock breed demographics - our biggest threat," Dr Swan said.

"The rising protein demand is transforming the sheep industry."

Dr Swan said the gross value of production for sheep meat had outpaced wool since the Global Financial Crisis (2001). "The GFC years saw a shift toward terminal ewe joinings," he said.

"Merino ewes and ewe lambs are in short supply, creating a tight wool supply as growers are pressured to maximise lamb production."

Dr Swan said there were opportunities to capture the market trend with help from the Lifetime Ewe Management participation in which producers could lift their lamb markings.

WoolPoll committee member and local woolgrower Bindi Murray said it was good to have AWI visit WA and present their plans on behalf of woolgrowers..

"I hope all shareholders exercise their opportunity and right to make an informed vote," she said.

WoolPoll voting closes on October 30 with results to be announced at AWI's annual general meeting on November 20.

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