WA Merino woolgrowers who have abandoned mulesing have a new private-contract option of selling their wool to a New Zealand company that is in strong demand.
Wool brokers Dyson Jones in WA and Australian Wool Network (AWN) parent company in other States have become exclusive agents for New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) and its international ZQ Merino program.
Only growers producing Merino wool in an ethical and sustainable way are accepted into the ZQ (pronounced ZeeQ) program.
Non-mulesing is a non-negotiable requirement of wool supply accreditation and growers must be prepared to have animal husbandry practices independently audited.
NZM supplies ZQ wool from contracted woolgrowers to certain international garment manufacturers who demand a traceable provenance for raw materials and high ethical and sustainability standards at every step of the supply and business chains.
Those manufacturers identify the standards and transparency as an integral part of their product branding and marketing strategies to meet certain consumer expectations.
The ZQ Merino program is "focussed on the retail end" of the wool industry, explained Dyson Jones State manager Peter Howie.
"We're only just getting into it and looking to identify our non-mulesing clients and giving them the opportunity to join the program," he said.
"For us, it's another marketing tool for our non-mulesing clients.
"It gives them and new clients, an opportunity to produce wool for a brand in particular micron ranges.
"There's a fairly wide micron range in there and it's a form of risk management for our clients - there's currently supply contracts (on offer) for three to five years, so there's a good opportunity to lock in.
"In New Zealand there's been 10-year contracts and they're (wool prices) pretty close to the market."
Mr Howie said while the program's price structure did not offer significant premiums for non-mulesing wool, the attraction was that prices were guaranteed.
"A lot of banks like the fact you can be locked in for three to five years, it gives them some surety too," he said.
While Dyson Jones acted as broker, the contracts were with NZM.
"NZM has such a big market share that it can't fill demand (with New Zealand wool even though surgical mulesing was banned there from the start of this month) so it's come to Australia," Mr Howie said.
"The (mulesing) issue has always been there, but it has gathered some momentum.
"It (non-mulesing) has been mainly driven by European manufacturers - some now buy more wool off New Zealand than they do off Australia - but there are some signs China will eventually follow in that direction.
"WA's been behind on it (adopting non-mulesing to sell wool into some markets)."
Whether they mules or not, Mr Howie said Dyson Jones encouraged all woolgrowers to fill out the national wool declaration because the information on it could improve the marketability of their wool clip.
MORE WOOL NEWS:
Farm Weekly understands Dyson Jones and AWN, with the connection to the ZQ Merino program, may have just pipped at least one other national wool broker intending to offer a similar program with a specialised marketing option to non-mulesing woolgrowers.
Dyson Jones and AWN are also expecting the first garments produced from the Williams region wool to be on sale in The Williams Woolshed retail outlet by Saturday, December 1.
Similar to the ZQ Merino program, the Williams Wool program sources wool from contracted local growers and uses it to produce a range of branded products, with access to the garments' provenance available via electronic tags and a video able to be viewed on a mobile phone.
Two of the high-end international brands that use ZQ Merino wool are Icebreaker and Helly Hansen, which both make a range of technical next-to-skin and outer layer outdoor activity and winter sport and recreation apparel.
An outstanding New Zealand wool success story since it was started in 1995, Icebreaker sources 84 per cent of its wool from New Zealand, 11pc from Australia and 5pc from South Africa.
The greasy wool is cleaned and prepared for spinning in China and spun into yarn in China, Italy or Bulgaria.
The yarn is knitted or woven into fabric in China, Vietnam, Taiwan or Japan and the fabric made into garments in China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, the United States or Italy.
Finished products are distributed through centres in Germany, US, Canada and New Zealand and sold through 4500 stores in more than 47 countries and online in 23 countries.
Each of the 75 contracted New Zealand woolgrowers who provide wool for Icebreaker's product range are identified on an interactive map on the Icebreaker website.