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Beyond the Bale : March 2014
14 FAST FACTS l Representatives from Russian textile companies visited Australia in December to see where Australian Merino wool is grown. l Russia used to be the biggest single buyer of Australian wool, but this trade stopped after the collapse of the USSR. l Resuming trade with Russia will ensure there are additional markets for Australian wool. 14 OFF-FARM Russians rushing to wool Before the USSR formally collapsed at the end of 1991, it was the largest buyer of Australian wool and bought up to 30 per cent of Australia’s wool clip. But the crash of the political powerhouse saw its wool trade with Australia all but stop until 2011, when AWI launched its ‘To Russia with wool’ project. Since then, AWI estimates that more than one million kilograms of Australian wool has been exported to Russia. And with the extremely cold weather that has recently blanketed much of the northern hemisphere, it has never been a better time to turn to wool. Russia’s relationship with the Australian wool industry was further strengthened in December when Russian textile interests came to Australia to see for themselves where Merino wool is grown. Representatives from woollen mills, scourers, weavers and fibre experts travelled at their own expense to woolgrowing properties in NSW and Victoria. They travelled firstly to the south west slopes and tablelands of NSW to Angus and Allan Coles’ property, ‘Glencoe’, Boroowa before visiting the property of AWI Chairman Wal Merriman at Boroowa. The tour then travelled to Victoria and met with WoolProducers Australia president Geoff Fisken on his wool property ‘Lal Lal’ near Ballarat before meeting with some Australian wool exporters and brokers in Melbourne, and visiting the Australian Wool Testing Authority and a wool auction. The return of Russian interest is significant given the large potential the former Russian states have for processing and consuming the natural fibre. In 2011 AWI Chairman Wal Merriman and General Manager Product Development Admiring Merino rams are Igor Salomakhim, AWI’s representative in Russia; Konstantin Konevego, Pavolove Posad; Vladimir Maksimau, Ilych Wool Belarus; Konstantin Razumeev, Moscow State Textile University. CEO of Russia's iconic manufacturer and brand Pavolove Posad, Konstantin Konevego, has a go at shearing. March 2014 BEYOND THE BALE and Commercialisation Jimmy Jackson travelled to Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine and met with current and former woollen mills and textile experts. Relationships with three topmakers and dozens of Russian manufacturers, designers, retailers and brands have now been established and in September 2013 Bryansk Worsted Mill became the first Russian Woolmark and Wool Blend licensee. “We think this is just the tip of the iceberg,” AWI Chairman Wal Merriman said. “This is the start of a resurgence of the wool industry in Russia both in wool processing and consumption. It has the three trigger points of cold climate, increasing wealth and a large population. They already wear wool, they know the product.” During the past two decades when wool trade between Australia and Russia ceased, Russia looked to domestically produced wool as well as broader wool from Argentina. But having seen the superior Australian product, Russian companies are keen to source fine Australian wool once again. Konstantin Konevego, CEO of Russia's iconic manufacturer and brand Pavolove Posad, said, "I had heard from AWI that Australia produced the finest wool in the world but I had to come and see it for myself and as they say in Russia: seeing is believing".