Sense of normality hoped to continue after break

Cally DupeCountryman
Westcoast Wool & Livestock manager Brad Faithfull and Westcoast Wool & Livestock wool auctioneer Danny Burkett.
Camera IconWestcoast Wool & Livestock manager Brad Faithfull and Westcoast Wool & Livestock wool auctioneer Danny Burkett. Credit: Countryman

A sense of normality has settled across the Western Wool Centre with brokers and sellers completing two weeks back in the sale room before the three-week recess.

There will be no wool sales across Australia until August 9, as the industry takes a breather after a challenging few months that saw wool prices soften to five-year lows.

Live open-cry auctions at the Western Wool Centre in Bibra Lake moved out of the sound-proof sale room and into the adjacent show floor section at the end of March.

COVID-19 social distancing rules meant the room was too small to cater to buyers, brokers and staff.

But the relaxing of COVID-19 rules late last month meant the group was free to move back into the enclosed sale room on July 1, for the last sale of the 2019-20 season.

Since then, those attending the Western Wool Centre auctions have enjoyed a return to normality that’s expected to continue when sales resume.

Westcoast Wool and Livestock auctioneer Danny Burkett said the industry had pulled together like never before during COVID-19.

“During this event, everyone has pulled together and done what they had to do, so we could continue to trade,” he said.

“Farmers came back about two weeks ago, as the restrictions eased in WA. Growers are more than welcome to come back and attend the sales after the recess.

“But overall, it has been a great result for the industry.”

Mr Burkett said the trading conditions had not been ideal during the coronavirus crisis, with the auction forced to compete with a lot of noise.

“Open cry auctions are fantastic, but in the environment for wool, which is one of the quickest ... you can actually sell 270-300 lots an hour,” he said.

“ It is easy to project your voice, but with forklifts operating, containers being filled with all sorts of material, it is simply loud.

“We did have to stop the auction for 5-10 minutes at times to stop containers being filled.

“In saying that, what we have had to put up with is easy compared to what some people have gone through, so there were no complaints here.”

Mr Burkett said it was hard to predict what might happen to prices when sales resumed after the recess.

“It is a very difficult question, given the circumstances we find we are in,” he said.

“I would be reluctant to pick a direction any which way at this point in time. Hoping is the key word. It is a difficult position we find ourselves in.

“It is a frozen retail position, top stocks are being produced without being sold and we are building a stockpile of greasy wool here in WA.

“It will take some time for demand to pull that through the system. But, it is a great, positive tone to finish on.”

Westcoast Wool and Livestock WA wool manager Brad Faithfull said the virus hadunited the industry like never before.

Everyone from the wool trade did a fantastic job pulling together in WA, everyone needs to be commended strongly on that,” he said.

“We had a rostrum and the buying fraternity was sitting in front of the rostrum, and there were desk arrangements spread apart ... almost like a classroom.

“It was unlike anything we had seen before.”

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