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Beyond the Bale : Jun - July 08
by kellie Penfold A group of South Australian growers were delighted to discover like-minded enthusiasts at the other end of the supply chain when they travelled to China to gain a better understanding of the wool pipeline and to ascertain what they had to do to give their new wool-marketing group, Flinders Merino, a head start in the marketplace. Brian Rowe, of ‘Wolhalla Station’, near Hawker in the Flinders Ranges, who travelled with his wife Margie on the nine-day study tour, says the growers found the Chinese just as interested in learning about wool growing as the woolgrowers were interested in their businesses. “They wanted to learn more and more about Australian Merino and find out how we could help them with supply problems and issues with contamination,” Brian says. “The reality is they just love wool from Australia and prefer it to wool from anywhere else in the world.” Flinders Merino was kicked off in August 2007 by six wool-growing enterprises from the Flinders Ranges area, which wanted to establish specific market demand for their high-quality, contamination-free, white fleece. The group had its foundation in the Carrieton Bestprac group, which is run as part of the grower education program by Rural Directions and funded by AWI. Growers James and Julia Clarke, John and June Parnell, Geoff and Val Power, Darren and Debra Solly, Warren and Jane Luckraft, and the Rowes, were already selling their wool direct to topmakers through the online marketing system, e-wool™, and the formation of Flinders Merino became a natural progression of this. Now using the NewMerino™ chain-of-custody service offered by e-wool™, Flinders Merino is in contact with the value chain and will directly market the 1100 bales they collectively produce. The growers will receive direct feedback from the topmakers on the quality of the clip and areas that need to be improved. Brian Rowe says the trip to China, which was organised by Rural Directions with the growers funding their own travel, came about early in the development of the business as they wanted to attend the major textile fair Spin Expo, and the knowledge gained proved extremely valuable. The trip started in Melbourne with a visit to Australian Wool Handlers and the Australian Wool Testing Authority to learn about receival, core sampling, dumping, warehousing, shipping and testing. The group also visited Chargeurs in Melbourne, where Australian Merino wool is sourced, and in Zhangjiagang, China, visited Chargeurs’ Chinese topmaking facility. In Zhangjiagang the group also went to Tianyu, a topmaking facility, and then to the world’s largest spinning mill, Südwolle, and the vertically integrated Sunshine, which processes greasy wool through to garments. In Shanghai and Hong Kong they were hosted by AWI and learned about marketing, supply chain developments and research, followed by a trip to the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, one of the largest textile research providers in Asia. “We’ve all heard about Chinese processors letting the Australian wool industry know they weren’t happy about contamination and the threat posed by exotic breeds,” Brian says. “We didn’t want that put under the table. We wanted to find out what we could do to guarantee quality supply. “Therefore, if Flinders Merino can supply a large line of consistent quality, the feedback suggests buyers will be eager to buy that sort of wool. Once they know they can trust the quality, the processors say they may be prepared to pay a premium.” Back on his own property, where he runs 5000 Merinos, Brian plans to class his wool into fewer lines with the majority of fleeces going into one line, only segregating locks, pieces, bellies and stains and taking out any poor- quality fleeces, such as tender wool. Overall, the group returned positive about what they saw, particularly as a result of Spin Expo and AWI’s work with major fashion brands. “At Spin Expo, industry people from India especially kept telling us how much they loved Australian Merino – they can’t get enough of it.” Brian says the development of Flinders Merino is testimony to the success of the Bestprac group, which he says works well because of the coming together of like-minded woolgrowers. Brian says he enjoys having a wide circle of people he can bounce ideas off and learn from. “We’ve all moved our own enterprises forward as a result,” he says. “At the beginning, every member was shearing at different times of the year and now we all shear in April because we’ve found it’s better to be lambing on to good feed in spring.” ú More information: rural directions, 08 8842 1103; www.woolinnovation.com.au/education Grower tour helps quench knowledge thirst Members of wool-marketing group Flinders Merino met with topmakers and spinners in China recently and discovered a shared passion 17 STUDy TOUR beyond The bAle The group from Flinders Merino in China: (back row, from left) David Heinjus, John Parnell, Sarah Heinjus, Geoff Power, James Clarke, Brian Rowe, Darren Solly and Tony Wen; and (front row, from left) June Parnell, Julia Clarke, Chelsea Muster, Margie Rowe, Val Power, Reuben Solly, Jane Luckraft, Warren Luckraft and Peter Vandeleur. PHO TO : L EE yEE PHO TO : C HELSEA M USTE R PHO TO : D A VID H EINJUS SA grower and member of Flinders Merino Warrren Luckraft (left) with Tony Wen at Tianyu Wool Industry in Zhagnjiagang. Flinders Merino member Reuben Solly (left) talks with Chris McKenzie of Chargeurs at their plant in Zhangjiagang.
Jun - Jul 08 Supplement
Aug - Sep 08