Trefort backs WA Merino branding bid

Trefort backs WA Merino branding bid

Wool
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Wool trader Peter Scanlan's call for WA Merino wool to have its own branding and marketing has been backed by Peter 'Polly' Trefort, the pioneer who put WA Q-Lamb on many more dinner tables.

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WOOL trader Peter Scanlan's call for WA Merino wool to have its own branding and marketing has been backed by Peter 'Polly' Trefort, the pioneer who put WA Q-Lamb on many more dinner tables.

Mr Trefort, a member of the Royal Agricultural Society WA (RASWA) Hall of Fame, contacted Mr Scanlan after reading in last week's Farm Weekly about his ideas for a specific WA 'CashMerino' or similar wool branding to be marketed up against cashmere rather than against traditional cotton and synthetic fibre rivals.

As reported last week, Mr Scanlan's proposal aims to lift woolgrower returns by eliminating a traditional price discount paid for WA wools in comparison to Eastern States' wools when they were each labelled AAAM.

"Peter's idea of developing a quality label/brand/description - call it what you like - is a brilliant move," Mr Trefort, a semi-retired fourth-generation Narrogin cropping, cattle and sheep producer who still has 500 ewes and sells his wool through Scanlan Wools, said in an encouraging email to Mr Scanlan.

"Many years ago the meat industry was in a similar position regards specification and giving the consumer what they want labelled with a guarantee what they were getting was the same every time and the product could be trusted," Mr Trefort said.

"A group of 11 Mt Barker farmers and I with the abattoir (Mr Trefort's family then owned and operated Hillside Meats at Narrogin) started a lamb brand, calling it Q-Lamb (with lambs) raised to a specification," he said.

"This move proved to be a huge success, first capturing the Eastern States' food service (market), then spreading into Asia and the Middle East.

"The number of producers escalated to 200 plus.

"Before Q-Lamb the price to farmers had never been above $1.80 (a kilogram carcase weight).

"(By) giving the consumer what they want - we soon doubled their return and the price has never dropped back, in fact (it is) now $9kg plus.

"Wool could be the same success story."

Mr Trefort said with Mr Scanlan's experience and reputation, he could completely change the market.

"Give the processor exactly what he needs to satisfy the ultimate wearers of the garments," Mr Trefort said.

"In my experience, having been in (shearing) sheds all over Australia, everyone is using the AAAM or even AAAAM and it is many times from poor to reasonable (quality wool) in the one pack.

"All other commodities - grains, milk, fruit, vegetables, meat, fish - have benefited from a good system of quality description.

"s soon as it happens with wool the better."

Mr Scanlan is currently in India on business but said there had been "great response, all positive" to the Farm Weekly article.

Later Mr Trefort said he would contact Mr Scanlan when he was back from India to discuss further steps to establish a group of woolgrowers interested in his ideas.

"The principal is the same whether it's lamb or wool or any other product," Mr Trefort said.

"It is about establishing what the customers wants then producing what they want to a specification and marketing it with a label that the customer can have confidence in every time they buy.

"If the wool processor is confident that when he opens a bale of WA wool there won't be any tender or half-length wool in with the good full-length wool, that will make a huge difference.

"That confidence in the product can influence how much he buys and what he's prepared to pay for it.

"I have no doubt there will be people who try to shoot Peter's ideas down, but from my experience they're worth pursuing."

Mr Trefort was inducted into the RASWA Hall of Fame in 2017 in recognition of his contributions to both the sheep industry and agricultural education.

A Sheep CRC board member, he was also on the board of WA's Combined Advisory Council of Agricultural Colleges for 20 years, including three as chairman, a board member of Meat and Livestock Australia for 14 years and awarded an honorary doctorate in science from Murdoch University in 2007 for his contribution to industry innovation and participation in meat quality and lamb supply chain research projects.

He has worked closely with Murdoch University and The University of WA, as well as the former Department of Agriculture and Food WA, on developing an on-farm and processing research and development strategy.

Mr Trefort has also been working with the Stirlings To Coast Farmers group on establishing the WA Producers' Co-operative aimed at boosting long-term productivity and competitiveness through value adding and securing premium markets for some Great Southern grains and sheep producers.

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