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Beyond the Bale : Aug 07 - Sep 07
Already the largest supplier in the world of Merino wool for clothing, AWI believes Australia is well placed to capitalise on the growing global demand for eco-assured products. Consultant to AWI Dr Paul Swan says the eco trend is changing the industry, and is being driven by consumers back through the pipeline. Environmentally assured garments are one of the largest trends to hit the fashion scene in a long time. Recently completed AWI studies of consumers and retail trends suggest that the 'green' movement is not a 'fad' but a major change in consumer behaviour. According to a recent AWI-funded survey of 22,000 consumers in 10 key consumer markets, about two-thirds of those disposed to buy wool apparel prefer natural or organic-fibre products.They represent 31 per cent of all consumers. A second study of key trends in consumer behaviour showed that a number of the major trends potentially favour demand for wool -- showing, for example, that consumers are increasingly focused on the purchase of affordable luxury items, and personal health and wellbeing, and make conscious purchase decisions. as a strategy. If my customer says 'I want organic', I have to find it," he says. "More and more we are reading about climate change and more and more people want to know how their clothing is made. It's too dangerous to move all our clothing to organics because of the risks with supply. At the moment demand for organic fibres virtually equals supply." Marks & Spencer already stocks a large range of organic and fair-trade cotton clothing. Recycled polyester is sold in the form of polar-fleece jumpers, which proudly declare that 10 plastic bottles were recycled to create one garment. Marks & Spencer is Ferney Spinning Mill's single largest customer and Eddy Yeung facilitated the trip to Australia to learn more about the challenges in the supply chain. "People are looking more and more closely at the way they live and at their health," he says. "Therefore, our customers are asking about organic wool. We have to help them find it." Last year, Fletcher International, one of only two wool-top processors in Australia, supplied 30 tonnes of clean organic wool to customers in Germany, Mauritius (Ferney) and the US, and, after hosting Marks & Spencer and Ferney for part of their Australian visit, is optimistic that volume could grow dramatically this year. "Our main problem is that, currently, demand exceeds supply," explains Anthony Hall, Fletcher International's wool tops export sales manager. "I agree with AWI's suggestion that up to 400 tonnes of organic wool are produced each year in Australia, and we are presently working through how we can access more of that wool. Our aim is to double our production of organic wool this year." How to sustainably increase that supply is a challenge for Fletcher International, with Mr Hall admitting his customers are prepared to pay premiums, but only up to six per cent on conventional wool prices. Fletcher International's wool-processing facility was built on eco-friendly guidelines, making the move into organic wool processing a natural fit, which in turn, has appealed to international customers. "Demand for organic wool is coming from countries that have embraced organic living -- places like Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria," Mr Hall says. "I was recently in Italy and it wasn't nearly as big. "The feeling we got from Graham at Marks & Spencer was that he was greatly impressed by the eagerness of Australian woolgrowers to learn more about the international textile market from him. The growers we took him to see were really receptive to the ideas of Marks & Spencer, who have been long-time supporters of Australian Merino wool." ú More information: www.merinoinnovation.com.au; Fletcher International, 02 6884 5833, www.fletchint.com.au 7 RETAIL TRENDS BEYOND THE BALE Graham Burden from Marks & Spencer takes a closer look at the Ungers' organic wool. "Eco-friendly and organic garments are going mainstream," Dr Swan says. "Marks & Spencer and Wal-Mart, two of the world's largest volume-retailers, have announced they will move to an ecological stance in garment purchasing, and we are seeing strong interest from wool processors. "Australia can grasp this opportunity -- we have a great 'natural' story to tell, provided we can communicate this through the pipeline to wool consumers, and provided growers can respond to the growing demand for environmentally assured wool. "Already 39 per cent of Australian Merino wool sold at auction would meet the European Union Ecolabel standards, as we discovered in the wool-residue survey we completed in December 2006.That 39 per cent represents 130 million kilograms of Australian Merino wool. However, at present, less than one per cent of the clip is sold with organic or EU- Ecolabel certification." Organics and eco-wool aside, Dr Swan says there is opportunity to promote the natural attributes of Australia's wool-growing environment: "Australian Merino wool is produced in a natural, free-ranging environment. AWI, 'Eco-friendly' attracts a new generation to wool Ray and Judi Unger, of 'Waratah' at Peak Hill, with organic wool produced on their property. government agencies and non-government organisations provide information, programs, group workshop and incentives for wool producers to maintain the natural environment's health.This has resulted in thousands of hectares of native-tree plantings, the fencing-off of native bushland for biodiversity, elimination of higher-toxicity farm chemicals, zero chemical use in waterways and farmers learning and participating in natural resource management projects." AWI has decided to invest in this sector to ensure Australia captures the growing demand for environmentally assured apparel wool, and since July 2006 has been working with a number of organisations involved in the handling, testing and marketing of the Australian clip to ensure that this occurs. AWI will provide supply-chain support for processors and retailers, including technical information and market intelligence, a database of Australian suppliers of certified environmentally assured growers and processors, and support for product development and marketing. More information: www.merinoinnovation.com "It's very difficult to buy in sheep that have been run organically -- you really need to build up your own self-replacing flock" -- RAY UNGER, GROWER
Aug 07 - Sep 07 Supplement
Jun 07 - Jul 07 Supplement