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Beyond the Bale : June 2019
FARM OLGROWERS A'S WOOL INDUSTRY Beyond the Bale caught up with two of the young woolgrowers, Jonno Hicks and Matilda Scott, to get their thoughts about the trip. Has this trip given you a greater understanding of what it takes to convert raw wool into a final product? Jonno Hicks (JH):As producers, often the last time we see of our wool is when it gets loaded onto the truck on farm or on the auction floor and we don’t give it much thought after that. This trip was a fantastic opportunity to see wool processing and all the stages from raw wool to finished garments. Matilda Scott (MS):Yes, this trip has developed my understanding of raw wool processing and garment manufacture. Before the tour, I viewed some videos of wool processing, but nothing could prepare me for the scale and speed that raw wool was being processed into tops, yarn, fabric and then garments. Were you impressed by what you saw in the Chinese wool industry? JH: I was amazed by the level of investment and technology in the wool processing. I had assumed that because of the massive workforce in China they wouldn’t have the level of mechanisation and modern equipment. But some of the processing plants we visited were very advanced with stateof-the-art machinery that used the latest technology to produce a high quality and consistent product. MS: Imagine walking into the biggest warehouse you have ever seen, and then replicate that 30 times, each filled with cutting edge machinery. That is the scale of some of the mills that we had the privilege of seeing. I was impressed by the continuous development of new technology and designs and the integration of the new technology. What are the Chinese mills' opinions of Australian wool at the moment? MS:The current price of wool was a topic of conversation at the Chinese mills. We also discussed the future of wool demand in China and it is evident that the quality and quantity of Australian wool is a significant driver in efficient processing and marketing of wool Jonno Hicks runs a mixed sheep and cropping property in Kaniva in Western Victoria, managing Hannaton Merino stud as well as a commercial flock averaging 19.5 microns. products. They were also very interested in building relationships with young woolgrowers to develop direct sale of wool from farm to yarn. JH: Chinese processors definitely view Australian wool as a top-quality product. While there was some concern with the current high prices, they were more concerned with ongoing supply and the current threat to supply with the poor season in many wool-growing areas. Some processors did require a specific product and would like to see more fine wools but the Chinese market as a whole has strong demand across a range of microns. What is driving demand at retail in China? JH: The demand for Australian wool products is ever increasing in China with a growing middle class. AWI's marketing arm The Woolmark Company is doing a fantastic job to partner with both designers and fashion labels to educate consumers and promote wool and its versatility in active wear, outerwear, next to skin apparel. The latest processing technology for machine washable and easy-care wool garments is also helping to drive demand. MS: Yes, one of the main drivers in retail in China is the rise of the middle class. With a greater population earning a higher annual disposable income, there are more people able to buy luxury woollen garments. Australia is well positioned to capitalise on this demand for quality products. What is your opinion of the work being done by AWI's marketing subsidiary The Woolmark Company in Hong Kong and China? Matilda Scott works on her family’s property ‘Myrtlewood’ at Cleveland in Tasmania, where they farm 700 breeding ewes with an average micron of 17.5. JH:The most impressive part of the trip for me was the work of The Woolmark Company in China. From the research and development through to marketing and the impact it’s having on our industry and the price of wool. With the range of new products being developed I was impressed by the versatility of wool and the fantastic campaigns being promoted by The Woolmark Company. The staff we met and their passion for wool was evident and is obviously having an impact on The Woolmark Company’s success in China. MS: I think AWI and The Woolmark Company are doing an exceptional job marketing wool as a renewable, breathable and comfortable fabric. They are putting in a great effort educating young designers about the properties of wool and encouraging them to include wool in their garment collections. Having been on this trip, do you as a young woolgrower feel more confident about the future of the Australian wool industry? MS: Going on this trip has given me the confidence to say that the wool industry in Australia is going to continue to have a strong relationship with China. It is important to maintain the reputation of superior quality of our raw wool to ensure the continuation of the very successful partnership with China and other wool processing nations. JH: The trip made me proud to be an Australian woolgrower, seeing China’s processors and consumers’ recognition of our top-quality product. The level of investment and the scale of Chinese processing capacity gives me great confidence in the sustainability of the Australian wool industry and optimism for our future. OFF 19