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Australian wool growers optimistic after tour of Chinese industry

by Terry Sim, 20 March 2017

Victorian wool growers Rod and Sue Miller in China.

VICTORIAN wool grower and stud breeder Rod Miller has come home from a tour of the Chinese wool-processing and retail sectors with his batteries charged.

“I’m very confident.

“We visited a number of woollen mills and all of them were passionate about Australian wool and developing it,” he said.

“They are very scared that we are going to run out of wool, especially fine wool.”

Rod and Sue Miller from the Glenpaen Merino Stud at Brimpaen were part of a group of young wool growers on a recent Australian Wool Innovation-sponsored tour of the Chinese wool processing and retail sectors.

Rod said it was apparent there was little wool left in the Chinese processing pipeline.

“We found our next door neighbour’s bale of wool in one of the mills.

“It was just about to go on the processing line and that was sold in December,” he said.

“So there is no wool in front of them.”

He believed the new developments in next-to-skin wear and active wear were starting to “kick-in.”

“Every high fashion shop you went into, there weren’t many people, but you walk into a sports shop and it’s choccas, and it’s a huge market.”

He believed demand in the active wear sector was providing the increased demand for Australian wool.

“That’s my opinion of what’s driving it at the moment.”

Rod believed AWI’s marketing efforts were yielding results and the company’s staff in China were passionate about their job and new innovations.

“You wouldn’t say they were over-staffed, it’s money well-spent I would say.”

Chinese processors happy to see young wool growers

Rod said the Chinese processors were happy to see young wool growers.

“They are used to seeing old wool growers going through, but they were rapt to see young wool growers.

“It gives them confidence in the industry, that there are young wool growers taking it on.”

The wool growers met with key vertical mills such as Nanshan and Sunshine, key processors such as Tianyu and knitting facilities such as the Xinao/Woolmark Knitwear Development Centre. In Shanghai, Nanjing and Hong Kong growers met with key AWI/Woolmark staff as well as retailers and designers who all work to sell wool in the Chinese market.

Future looks bright

Australian wool growers with AWI staff at the Hong Kong Wool Resource Centre.

Balmoral grower Daniel Rogers said the tour gave him a greater understanding of the passion and expertise involved with taking wool from its raw state right through to a beautiful garment at retail.

“It was an amazing experience to see the enormous investment that the Chinese industry has made in wool and their love of Australian Merino wool,” he said.

“It really has given me a lot of confidence in the future of the industry and to see so many Chinese designers, retailers and brands wanting to use the product we produce was really good.

“The future looks bright.”

Also on the tour were Warren Russell and Cameron Mibus from Victoria; Syd Lawrie and Tom Davidson from South Australia; Todd Mullan and Mitchell Hogg from Western Australia; Ed Morgan, Alex Willson and Ian Cameron from New South Wales, and; Anna Cotton from Tasmania.

Almost 80 percent of Australia’s raw wool production is exported to China for early stage processing. Half of this wool is consumed in China at retail, making the Chinese wool processing and retail economy extremely important to Australia’s $3 billion wool industry, AWI said.

AWI said encouraging the next generation of wool industry workforce participants is critical to the prosperity of the Australian wool industry. AWI aims to help improve the engagement of young people interested in the wool industry, thereby developing and retaining the skills the wool industry needs to be innovative in response to new challenges. The wool growers on the tour paid their own airfares and AWI funded their accommodation.

Source: AWI.

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