GUEST speakers at the Stud Merino Breeders' Association of WA AGM Sundowner last Friday outlined some key influences on Merino production in regards to opportunities and threats in the China wool market.
The concerns surrounding live export were also on the agenda.
Elders national wool manager, Mark Rodda, described China as a new world power house, which had high demand for all Australian agricultural products.
Mr Rodda said the future prospects for Australian wool in China, with a population of 1.3 billion and an annual economic growth of 7.9 per cent, is unlimited.
"China is the manufacturing basin of the world,² Mr Rodda said.
³There has been a rapid move from a rural to an urbanised population, with agricultural lands being swallowed up in the process.²
Mr Rodda said that China was developing trade deals with Australia and many other countries to secure their expanding import needs.
He said Australia couldn't afford to think they are ahead of the pack.
Elders now have five offices within Asia, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo.
There are 25 Australian employees working in these offices to promote the use of Australian wool in China's textile industry.
Mr Rodda said this illustrated the importance Elders has placed on developing the fast growing agricultural trade relationship.
Elders portfolio manager Danny Burkett has recently returned from a trip to China where he had taken part in developing his understanding of the wool trade between the two countries.
Mr Burkett said that China was the home of the largest textile industry in the world.
"China is the largest wool scourer and garment maker in the world and is also the largest processor of fine and superfine wool," Mr Burkett said.
"65 per cent of Australian wool exported to China is absorbed domestically, with Australian wool carrying a reputation for high quality, luxury and value for money.
"China takes 50 per cent of the Australian national clip which makes up only 16 per cent of the total amount of wool sent to China.²
Mr Rodda said that China was eager to develop innovative and competitive ideas, and the deregulation of Chinese import and export laws for wool had allowed restructuring to occur within the industry.
This points toward a strong future for the development of Australian wool exports to China.
Following the presentation by Mr Rodda, live export veterinarian Dr Mike Back attempted to explain some of the myths surrounding the controversial subject of live export.
Dr Back said he had been working with cattle and sheep for the last 40 years and first started shipping wethers in 1971.
Dr Back said in the month of January 400,000 sheep had been drafted onto ships for live export.
He praised the work done by stockmen involved with drafting and caring for the sheep over their 16-17 day trip to the middle east, saying in all his time as a live export vet he had never seen a lazy stockmen.
Dr Back said it was regulation that at least two to three stockmen were Australian on the ship, and that an AQIS approved vet was also aboard.
He said 75-80 per cent of sheep maintained their weight on the journey, 20 per cent gained weight and only five per cent lost weight.
"In all my experience as a vet I have never seen an ill treated animal gain weight" Mr Back said.
Mr Back said that live export companies do everything to insure a safe and successful outcome.
He didn't believe these companies would knowingly allow the mistreatment of animals considering the large amount of money invested to ensure their safe shipment.
Mr Back said there was still a high and growing demand for fresh meat in Middle Eastern countries, irrespective of socio-economic differences.
"The demand for Merino ram lambs is very high," Mr Back said.
Mr Back said that despite the live shipping ban to Saudi Arabia, according to Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) figures the export of frozen meat had declined.
Mr Back said the two main areas threatening the live export industry in WA were lack of shipping capacity in the future and excessive regulation.
The looming decline of shipping capacity meant that after 2007, shipping companies would not be able to guarantee shipping space.
Mr Back said that excessive regulation would cause export companies to move to other countries because live export would not be feasible out of WA.
"The terrible increase in the time livestock needs to spend in feedlots is damaging livestock health," Mr Back said.
"We are suffering a death by 1000 cuts."
Mr Back said that in order to save the live export industry it was necessary to block the excessive bureaucratic tendencies of the Australian Government towards the trade.