Australian Wool Innovation chairman Jock Laurie has come under fire from WoolProducers Australia for comments made during an interview in June 2023 and published in the Australian Super Fine Woolgrowers Association’s most recent annual report. The criticism comes on the eve of AWI director elections and Annual General Meeting set to be held on Friday, November 17. The elections and AGM are set to be held both online and in person at Sydney. In the interview, Mr Laurie discussed demand for non-mulesed wool by the European market in comparison to the bulk wool buyers in China which make up 82 per cent of purchases from Australia and have no such demands of Australian woolgrowers. Mr Laurie said “perhaps we need to promote the need for a premium more” but he would like to see farmer groups more involved to move the matter forward — “but I do not see that leadership at the moment”. WoolProducers Australia president Steve Harrison said the organisation was “frustrated at recent statements” from Mr Laurie that there was “no leadership (from farmer groups) at the moment” in relation to animal welfare advocacy. Mr Harrison said Mr Laurie’s comments were “disappointing and completely unfounded, but not surprising”. “Actions speak louder than works, if AWI took the time to genuinely understand and collaborate with WoolProducers the industry would be a lot better off,” he said. WoolProducers went on to defend its efforts on behalf of the industry, listing the “extensive work in relation to sheep welfare, health and biosecurity” both through representation and policy development. WoolProducers general manager Adam Dawes said the organisation had initiated the Sheep Sustainability Framework and the Trust In Australian Wool campaign in order for the industry to tell its story. “The later of which AWI has chosen not to collaborate in relation to distribution or promotion in any way, whatsoever,” Mr Dawes said. He said WoolProducers had requested AWI to undertake regular reporting of supply chain sentiment to growers, particularly in relation to animal welfare, “but these calls have gone unanswered”. “We know that there are variable premiums for non-mulesed and certified wool, and that these premiums alone don’t appear to be enough to drive universal practice change. “In recent months WoolProducers have learnt that there is now demand for non-mulesed lanolin, and some major global processors will transition to 100 per cent non-mulesed wool from 2025. “It’s essential that growers receive this messaging so that they can invest in the sustainability of their business by ensuring that their businesses continues to evolve to meet emerging customer needs.” Mr Dawes said WoolProducers would continue to provide leadership on animal welfare on behalf of the industry and was willing to collaborate with AWI in the future.