CHINESE mill operators are aware of Australian woolgrowers' struggle to find a balance between meat and wool production and the desire to stay in the wool game in light of low market return.
Tianyu Wool Industry vice general manager Yiming Chen expressed his empathy on the issue to WA woolgrowers during the recent West Coast Wools China Wool Mission.
He also reassured growers that companies such as Tianyu were in the industry for the long haul.
"We are aware of the issues woolgrowers in Australia are facing," he said.
"The prices are a reflection of the market trend over the past 10 years.
"We have seen a larger variety of fibres blended into textile production, so the structure of different fibre blends has really changed.
"Over the years, this has resulted in a decrease of the percentage of wool used in the end product and because consumption and market demand has decreased, more importance has been placed on quality."
Although demand is down, Mr Chen believes the wool industry will always to be in the market place, especially in light of high oil prices pushing up the cost of synthetic fibres.
"We have already seen a large change looking back three or four years at the wool industry in both Australia and China," he said.
"Probably more so here in China in the way we buy and process the wool."
Tianyu is a strong supporter of Australian wool, sourcing 20,000t of raw wool each year to meet its 30,000t capacity scour plant.
Joint partners in the wool mission, West Coast Wools and Sentdale Wool, Laverton North, Victoria, contribute to this, sending 2000-2500 bales of Australian wool per annum.
While demand for wool may have dropped in recent years, Tianyu is committed to the industry.
Mr Chen said the company was investing more money into the mill to ensure efficiency increased.
This year the operation has undergone a major restructure, transferring from being solely private to a group company.
Management has also changed, with outside executives such as Mr Chen now employed to take over the reins from the family operation.
Tianyu has an impressive production scale that has seen it sell current production up until the end of May.
The mill has one scour and three combing plants that produce 1200t of wool tops per month.
Management, however, is hoping that it can increase this figure to 1500t after reconfiguring the machinery and introducing new management practices.
The combing machinery was sourced from the Benetton Group, Italy, while the scouring plant contains three lines which were bought from Conagra/Melbourne Scour, Australia.
The lines gave Tianyu the biggest capacity for scouring wool in one complex in the country, but Mr Chen said Tianyu was considering expanding its scouring factory even further to meet market demand.
"We are investing in the mill to try and increase our efficiency and while it all comes back to viability, it also shows we are committed to the wool industry," Mr Chen said.