Wool Trade

Australian wool sales continue as South Africa shuts down

Terry Sim, March 25, 2020

The current Melbourne wool sale room

AUSTRALIA’S wool auctions are expected to continue despite the second stage business and personal gathering restrictions announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison last night.

Although restrictions on businesses and social gatherings have been tightened, the wool industry was given preliminary advice today that it can continue auctions.

The indoor live wool auctions in Melbourne, Sydney and Fremantle have already been moved into temporary sale rooms in larger areas to adhere to the four square metre requirement for individuals indoors.  The number of buyers, brokers and sale administration staff has also been limited.

Mr Morrison last night told Australians that: “In the retail space, auction houses, gatherings together in auction rooms, that can no longer continue.”

However, Sheep Central has been told that the wool industry has been advised by the Department of Agriculture that the restrictions on auctions announced by the Prime Minister last night do not apply to the wool industry. The rules around physical separation between individuals will continue to apply.

Secretary of the Australian Wool Exchange’s National Auction Selling Committee David Cother advised the industry after a NASC Working Group meeting this morning that the Federal Government had been contacted to clarify the status of open cry auction rooms and of the industry’s ‘essential industry recognition’. He said a written response is expected this morning.

Mr Cother advised that auctions today will run as per published selling arrangements. The working group has also proposed that Week 39 sales tomorrow commence at 10am in all regions, and on Day 2 in a two-day scenario thereafter for subsequent weeks.

He said the working group has recommended that the lunch breaks be extended to 60 minutes in all regions effective today and 10-minute breaks at least every 90 minutes must continue to be taken.

Mr Cother said a further update will be issued as soon as advice is received from the Government.

The current Fremantle wool sale room.

South Africa suspends wool sales

The continuance of Australian wool sales comes just after South African president Cyril Ramaphosa on 23 March announced a 21-day lockdown period due to the continuing spread of the coronavirus.

A media statement from Cape Wools SA said although the export of wool had not been affected until yesterday, the announcement by President Ramaphosa has changed the entire trading environment.

“SAWAMBA and the brokers met this morning to discuss the implications of the lockdown on the wool industry and it was agreed that, however difficult the decision might be, there is no alternative but to postpone all wool auctions and activities from Thursday.

“Despite looking at all available options, it is unavoidable that the receiving, packing, testing, containerisation and shipment of wool will come to a standstill from Friday, 27 March 2020,” the Cape Wools SA statement said.

“As an industry we are aware of the dire impact on all businesses and farmers involved but must respect the decision of our government and support the efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

“Wool auctions will resume as soon as possible after the lockdown has been lifted, with auctions to be rescheduled to ensure the catalogues are caught up even if it overlaps into the traditional off season,” the statement continued.

“The impact of the rapidly spreading coronavirus on global trading activities has increased exponentially over the last few weeks and we trust that wool trading and processing activities will return to acceptable levels in the near future.

“We encourage everyone to adhere to measures implemented by government and believe it will contribute significantly to restrict the spread of the virus.”

Earlier this week, the Australian wool industry sent a joint letter and a briefing paper to the Federal Governments and all state governments putting the case for classification of the sector as an essential industry.

Signatories to the documents included WoolProducers Australia, AWEX, Wool Industries Australia, AWTA Ltd, the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia, Sheep Producers Australia and AWH.

Click here to read the wool industry briefing paper.


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