AWI denies generic agenda

31 May, 2006 08:45 PM
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AUSTRALIAN Wool Innovation (AWI) maintains generic wool promotion is not on the board's agenda as the company prepares to release the recommended levy rates made by the 2006 WoolPoll panel this month.

WoolPoll chairman John Keniry confirmed with Farm Weekly two of the recommendations were more than the current 2pc levy being paid by woolgrowers.

Regulations require the current levy rate of 2pc and a zero levy rate to be included in the recommendations.

AWI considered five recommended levies at a board meeting last week.

The panel's recommendations will dictate AWI's direction for the next three years and how it will spend the funding.

AWI chief executive officer Len Stephens said the board would respond to the panel's recommendations this week.

Traditionally, the woolgrower's levy was nominally for AWI research and development (R&D) on-farm.

Dr Stephens confirmed the proportion of AWI's budget spent off-farm had increased in recent years.

Off-farm promotional innovation of wool now accounts for more than 50pc of AWI's funding.

Dr Stephens said AWI's commitment to on-farm R&D would remain an important part of the company's charter.

Talks of a possible merger between AWI and marketing body Australian Wool Services could leave many woolgrowers questioning their levy's direction, if an amalgamation takes place.

"Clearly there's a desire for clarification about what AWI does in the marketing area and how much money we're investing," Dr Stephens said.

"We will continue making the options in the WoolPoll document very clear," Dr Stephens said.

"The board has always consistently said generic promotion of wool is not on the agenda."

Dr Keniry said the WoolPoll panel had discussed the option to survey woolgrower's opinion in relation to wool promotion.

The panel will decide if it will poll any wool promotion questions at the next meeting on June 14.

"There is no inhibition on AWI to spend money off-farm, down the product pipeline to generate demand for wool," Dr Keniry said.

"Either from consumers or wool users.

"But the regulations do not allow them to go out and advertise wool generically."

Dr Keniry said the AWI levy did not have the capacity to fund wool advertising.

"It's not feasible for a levy on wool to make any meaningful dent if you're going to just promote wool generically," he said.

WA woolgrowers will get their chance to provide input in WoolPoll panel discussions in late September or early October.

"We are doing everything we can to make it easy for people to vote," Dr Keniry said.

"Two percent of everyone's gross wool revenue is a lot of money.

"So woolgrowers should have a great interest in it and have the opportunity to cast a view on how much should be spent."

Woolgrowers still have the option of voting for no levy at all.

Wool has largely been viewed as a struggling enterprise in recent years. Survey figures have clearly indicated an increase in large-scale cropping and meat livestock production.

Some woolgrowers may be asking the question: "Why have a levy at all?"

WA wool lobby groups have put aside any rival stances to ensure WA woolgrowers get full exposure to panel discussions.

WAFarmers is liaising closely with WA panel representative Clinton Ayres from the Pastoralists' and Graziers' Association and Mr Ayres have fully briefed WAFarmers on discussions so far.

WAFarmers wool council strongly supported the 2pc levy in the 2003 WoolPoll and has discussed marketing and promotion of wool on numerous occasions.

Wool council president Max Watts said Federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran assured WAFarmers if woolgrowers wanted levy monies spent on wool promotion and marketing he would not oppose it.

"There's obviously been a lot of talk since the last WoolPoll on the promotion of our product," Mr Watts said.

"WoolPoll offers the opportunity for growers to have a say on this."

The AWI board is scheduled to meet after the second panel discussion this month.

The panel is also looking at introducing electronic voting for 2006 along with fax and mail votes.

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