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Australian wool industry well-represented at Japan IWTO

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Aidan SmithCountryman
The Sustainability Panel at the IWTO in Japan - Rowan Woods, NCWSBA, Mark Graves, AWEX, John Roberts, AWI, Michael Jackson, AWTA, and Josh Lamb, ACWEP.
Camera IconThe Sustainability Panel at the IWTO in Japan - Rowan Woods, NCWSBA, Mark Graves, AWEX, John Roberts, AWI, Michael Jackson, AWTA, and Josh Lamb, ACWEP. Credit: supplied/supplied

WA wool industry representatives have returned from the world’s biggest wool industry conference with plenty of ideas to take to the drawing board ahead of of Australia’s turn to host next year’s event in Adelaide.

The International Wool Textile Organisation’s 92nd annual Congress was held in Japan last month, with 250 delegates from 25 countries across all five continents, and 22 virtual participants also taking part.

It was the first IWTO Congress to be held in person since the COVID pandemic began three years ago.

Dyson Jones WA manager Peter Howie attended the event along with three representatives from AWN, and said it was well worth the trip to be able to catch up with clients since the last Congress in Venice four years ago.

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He said there was a “good spread of buyers, exporters and a few brokers” from Australia that attended and they were well received by the “very hospitable Japanese”.

“The main takeaways were that crossbred wools have a long way to go before they recover,” Mr Howie said.

“There was a lot of talk about the uncertainty caused by the war in Ukraine and the flow-on effects, especially to the Europeans.

“There was also a push for more traceability and sustainability — which has been our focus in Australia.”

Dyson Jones WA manager Peter Howie.
Camera IconDyson Jones WA manager Peter Howie. Credit: Cally Dupe/Countryman

Australian Wool Innovation, The Woolmark Company, and Woolproducers Australia were also well represented.

WoolProducers chief executive Jo Hall said IWTO working groups provided an opportunity to receive updates as well as progress work to benefit the global wool supply chain.

WoolProducers managing director Adam Dawes presented to the Biosecurity and Trade Working Group, showcasing the results of a year-long project he led.

The project involved develop a Biosecurity Framework on the storage, treatment and certification of greasy wool to mitigate sanitary risks (such as FMD) from countries and regions affected by a disease outbreak.

“The framework was based on the World Organisation for Animal Health Terrestrial Code and the recent experienced of our South African colleagues, having recently established a domestic process to resume exports following FMD incursions into their ‘free zone’,” Ms Hall said.

Woolproducers chief executive Jo Hall.
Camera IconWoolproducers chief executive Jo Hall. Credit: supplied/supplied

Ms Hall said the Wool Sheep Welfare Working Group provided an opportunity for WoolProducers to present Australia’s world leading animal welfare standards and investment that underpinned sheep welfare, highlighting the need for active and ongoing industry engagement to ensure supply chains and regulators have a balanced narrative in relation to animal welfare issues.

Ms Hall chaired the Growers Forum, which received updates form Australia, New Zealand, the UK, South Africa, and the US.

She said all countries reported on the challenges faced through declining wool and sheep meat prices driving a switch to alternative enterprises, which was being driven by both business profitability or regulatory pressures.

“The most extreme case was put forward by NZ, which reported a decline in their national sheep flock of 2684 head per day for the past 30 years,” Ms Hall said.

“The UK also reported that wool is now often being used for animal bedding, as it was cheaper than buying in straw.

“Country updates also confirmed the ongoing pressures that wool growers across the world are facing in relation to labour shortage.”

John Roberts from AWI speaking at the IWTO in Japan.
Camera IconJohn Roberts from AWI speaking at the IWTO in Japan. Credit: supplied/supplied

Other IWTO Congress sessions covered wool from interior use to the outdoors, with plenty of insight into market trends and manufacturing statistics.

A retail session focused on wool suits and consumer trends in the Japanese market — Japan’s overseas apparel markets are expected to be worth US2.3 trillion by 2025.

Japan represents one of the top markets for wool products, with a potential luxury market size of 80 million consumers.

The 2024 IWTO Congress will be held in Adelaide from April 15-19.

“Having the event hosted locally will provide a great opportunity for exchanges to take place between Australian growers and representatives from right across the entire wool supply chain,” Ms Hall said.

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