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China concerned about contamination of Australian wool clip

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Aidan SmithCountryman
Australia controls about 85 per cent of global fine-wool exports, with China a major buyer.
Camera IconAustralia controls about 85 per cent of global fine-wool exports, with China a major buyer. Credit: AAP

The Australian wool industry is cleaning up its clip after reports from China of increasing contamination issues that potentially poses a threat to the industry.

Australian Wool Exchange chief executive Mark Grave said the industry was continually taking action to address wool preparation and contamination issues but at a recent meeting of the China Australia Joint Working Group, China raised the issue of clip preparation and contamination being found in Australian wool bales.

Mr Grave said contamination leads to reduced wool quality, posing a significant threat to the industry.

“Australia has an international reputation of producing the best wool in the world due to the adherence to our stringent clip preparation standards, however we have heard from our major customer that preparation issues, particularly contamination are on the rise,” Mr Grave said.

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Australian Wool Exchange chief executive Mark Grave.
Camera IconAustralian Wool Exchange chief executive Mark Grave. Credit: Cally Dupe/Countryman

China imports about 85 per cent of the Australian wool clip and about half of that remains in the country for its local manufacturing and fashion industries.

The current labour shortage being experienced in the wool harvesting sector across Australia has been flagged as playing a significant role in clip preparation issues.

Australian Wool Innovation chief executive John Roberts said currently it is not only harder to find adequate numbers of staff, but it is more expensive than ever to employ harvesting labour.

“It has to be understood by our customers that quality costs money, but unfortunately, we are not seeing this reflected in the market,” Mr Roberts said.

“Industry is committed to ensuring that those workers that we do engage are able to do their jobs in a professional manner, through ongoing training of shearers, wool handlers and wool classers.”

The Australian industry’s reliance on producing high-quality wool means that wool bale contamination is a major concern for producers, agents, buyers and processors.

WoolProducers Australia cheif executive officer Jo Hall.
Camera IconWoolProducers Australia CEO Jo Hall. Credit: WoolProducers Australia/WoolProducers Australia

WoolProducers chief executive Jo Hall said woolgrowers invest significant time and resources to produce their clip and it was important to maintain the industry standards.

“Woolgrowers must remain vigilant during harvesting to ensure that contaminants, such as clothing, bale hooks and twine do not make it into bales and that classing standards are maintained,” Ms Hall said.

National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia president Rowan Woods.
Camera IconNational Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia president Rowan Woods. Credit: Supplied/Supplied

Rowan Woods, president of the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia, said everyone had a part to play in ensuring that Australia maintained its reputation of being the best wool producer in the world by ensuring that the quality of our clip remained first class and contaminant-free.

During the domestic supply chain process there was also an opportunity for the Australian Wool Testing Authority to detect contamination in wool samples sent for testing.

“While not a fail-safe method of detection, when contamination is found there is a process whereby measures are taken to notify both the owner and classer of the wool and appropriate action can be taken, although the easiest way to avoid contamination is to keep it out in the first place,” AWTA managing director Michael Jackson said.

Australian Council of Wool Exporters and Processors president Josh Lamb.
Camera IconAustralian Council of Wool Exporters and Processors president Josh Lamb. Credit: Shannon Verhagen/RegionalHUB

The work being undertaken by the Australian industry to enhance wool traceability also demonstrated the commitment to ensuring that its customers’ concerns regarding clip preparation issues can be acted on in a timely manner.

Australian Council of Wool Exporters and Processors president Josh Lamb said while the industry has a traceability system in place, it is collectively working on enhancements to this system to ensure timelier tracing of product which will be of benefit to the entire supply chain, including customers when quality issues arise.

“The sooner we are notified of an issue, the sooner we can take corrective action,” Mr Lamb said.

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