AWI is backing Australian woolgrowers

AWI is backing Australian woolgrowers

Wool
Australian Wool Innovation chief executive officer Stuart McCullough believes record prices for Australian Merino wool in the past year are a reflection of the strong and consistent demand for Australian wool.

Australian Wool Innovation chief executive officer Stuart McCullough believes record prices for Australian Merino wool in the past year are a reflection of the strong and consistent demand for Australian wool.

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WOOL is back in fashion, with a resurgence of the Australian Merino wool industry resulting in strong prices for the iconic Australian fibre.

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WOOL is back in fashion, with a resurgence of the Australian Merino wool industry resulting in strong prices for the iconic Australian fibre.

And the industry is making the most of its return to global dominance by partnering with global brands and increasing demand for Merino wool around the world.

Stuart McCullough, chief executive officer of Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) - a not-for-profit company owned by Australia's woolgrowers that invests in research, development, innovation and marketing - said record prices for Australian Merino wool in the past year reflected strong and consistent demand for Australian wool.

"It is simply a matter of supply and demand - and AWI works on both," Mr McCullough said.

"We work hard to market Australian wool internationally as a desirable, sustainable and versatile fashion necessity and we work hard with Australian woolgrowers to help them supply the best-quality wool.

"Ultimately and most importantly, our marketing activities are designed to showcase Australian wool and return value to levy payers by growing demand for the product locally and internationally.

"We pitch Australian wool at the pinnacle of the fashion pyramid.

"We've enjoyed great success and while we recognise there are challenges ahead, we believe there is still room for growth."

Mr McCullough said the market was very different from 20 years ago, with the consumers of today, particularly the Y and Z generations, increasingly conscious about sustainability and their environmental footprint.

He said they were demanding to know where the fibre in their clothing came from, who made it, and what happened it when it is thrown away.

"When it comes to sustainability, our industry is well positioned," Mr McCullough said.

"Through our research we know that wool, due to its inherent biodegradability, has a less significant impact on the environment than synthetics in the use-phase of their lifecycle and at end-of-life.

"This is a unique attribute of this wonderful fibre that we can market to consumers globally.

"Leading international brands and sport companies recognise that these consumers are interested in natural fibre, and in particular wool, in clothes, running shoes, and soft tailoring.

"As a result, we see demand for Australian wool remaining strong for some time into the future."

Mr McCullough said that in terms of wool production, AWI was committed to listening to woolgrowers to understand their requirements.

He said AWI was investing in research in multiple areas, including applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning across the supply chain, electronic sheep tags that will act as virtual fences, and the use of robotics in the shearing shed.

"We recognise for the wool industry to prosper into the future we must accept that we are in a digital age and embrace this for the new opportunities that it presents," Mr McCullough said.

"We may not know where the future will lead; we do know that we must be digitally savvy.

"Our WoolQ project is future-proofing our industry and it is open to all.

"We are looking forward to implementing an online trading platform in the near future, that is open and data transferable.

"WoolQ will give AWI the platform to provide tools to ease the flow of information about Australian wool up and down the supply chain.

"The first step is E Speci - an alternative to the paper specification version that is now online and available for use by all WoolQ registered users."

Mr McCullough said a key function of WoolQ was the ability of woolgrowers to build a detailed profile of their woolgrowing enterprise.

He said by including imagery together with key production data such as micron range and bloodlines, geography and conservation initiatives, woolgrowers would be able to signal to potential buyers the welfare values, animals, people and landscape behind the product for sale.

"Traceability and transparency are core features being sought by an increasing number of consumers and therefore this is also being reflected in the requests of retailers, brands and manufacturers," Mr McCullough said.

"WoolQ will shorten the information gap between the final consumer and the producer, a gap that has been exceedingly long since the start of the Australian wool industry."

He said AWI was aware of the impact of the drought conditions across much of Australia, which was affecting lambing and production levels and would have an impact on the volume of production in coming seasons.

But despite the tough conditions, Mr McCullough said Australian Merino wool remained a world leader in an increasingly important sector.

"Biodegradable, breathable and fashionable - the wool industry is strong with a positive outlook into the future," he said.

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