CHINESE consumers understand that mulesing is a necessary practice in Australian wool-growing, the International Wool Textile Organisation’s 85th Congress was told in Sydney on Monday.
When asked if the mulesing of Australian sheep represented a risk to wool’s current and future value, chairwoman of the Nanjing Wool Market, Madame Yang Xiaoxiong, said Chinese consumers “don’t care too much as long animals are treated in Australia in a humane way”.
“The Chinese consumers do understand that mulesing is one of the necessary practices in wool growing.
“But having said that, most of the requirements these days, over the past few years, have been mainly coming from Europe,” she said through an interpreter.
“Also these requests has become not as serious as in the past few years, but because most of the Chinese industry do realise the customers they’ve got, if they want to source non-mulesed wool, they have to be very careful.”
“This is why the Nanjing Wool Market in this area is playing a role to try to help the trade certify the origin of wool, whether it has been mulesed or non-mulesed or what type of treatment has been used during processing.
How mulesing issue is managed will have a huge impact
German fibres consultant Bruna Angel said the mulesing of Australian sheep is an issue.
“I am not in the industry as a grower or in the retail industry as a brand, but I do believe that it is an issue and how that issue is managed, is being managed, is going to have a huge impact on the future.
And that’s probably one of the reason why I brought up right at the beginning of my presentation the forced labour issues for cotton, initially and now for viscose.
“It’s ensuring that your fibre is presented to the consumer truthfully realistically, but in as best light as possible.
“So when something comes up about industry that is difficult, it needs to be addressed and I think it is being addressed in Australia now for a number of years, that it is a subject that is not being let go because it still exists.
“It is a difficult subject that could have a negative impact, but as long as it is addressed, fine – no fibre is perfect at all.”
Chinese market insights
Madame Yang said because the macro business environment in China is not good, many of the small to medium sized wool processors were doing it tough.
“A lot of business are actually facing close down and we need to integrate that whole industry chain – it has become a paramount priority.”
Mme Yang said the Nanjing Wool Market used to have 2500 members and now there are only about 2000. Business ownership succession was an issue and there would be an overall economic slowdown this year, including in wool and textiles, with export volumes of yarn, tops and fabric decreasing, she said.
Earlier this year about 55 percent of China’s wool and textile companies predicted a very small increase in first quarter orders.
“Most of the businesses hold a prudent attitude towards the future and market growth.”
However, Mme Yang said because the country had a large processing capacity and wool supply was lower, the price for wool will remain high. But the overstocking problem in China will affect the purchase of wool.
She said with new woollen products and technology and consumer interest in new styles and designs, “this will be a good market.” Better quality double-faced products for the high-end market was Nanshan’s direction for this year.
Mme Yang said wool business costs will continue to rise. The ageing population had more job options and central government policies on environmental protection laws had increased costs and overheads.
“We have more consumers interested in using the internet to buy things and this is actually a risk and challenge to the industry and our real stores.
“The consumers actually care more about the price, the design and the comfort level, instead of the original materials and the fabrics,” she said.
Products from competing fibres such as from polyester have a lower production price and have also enjoyed a wider consumer market, and wool product market share is lessening, Mme Yang said.
The Chinese wool and textile industry was still more focussed on processing rather than innovative design and branding, with little awareness of fashion trends.