WOOL growers contracted with Australia’s largest independent broker AWN are among those with the most to lose with a phasing out of the Ceased Mulesing description from the National Wool Declaration.
AWN grower-clients who have ceased mulesing, but still retain mulesed sheep in their flocks, have tens of thousands of bales of CM wool contracted to overseas customers.
AWN managing director John Colley said he could not get a premium price over normal auction rates for wool from sheep mulesed with pain relief.
“Whereas with Ceased Mulesing (CM), we can access contracts and there are lots of contracts that are available through Europe and the United States that are very, very strong.”
These contracts are predominantly through the New Zealand ZQ Merino program, he said.
“I can tell you that AWN has tens of thousands of bales of CM wool contracted.”
Mr Colley said AWEX has committed to work through how the CM status could be retained on all contracts written up until the date that CM is not recognised on the NWD.
“So if I had a client who is ceasing mulesing and I sign a contract with him now for three years, he will still get CM on his wool for the next three years – it won‘t disadvantage him at all.”
Mr Colley is also an AWEX director and acknowledged the conflict with what he believed was right for AWN versus for the industry on the issue of including CM on the NWD.
“I’ve declared that all the way along.”
He recognised the CM description’s value for growers transitioning from mulesing, but the problem was the Australian industry had been “transitioning for 20 years.”
“There comes a time when you can’t transition any further and there comes a time when what you’ve got to do is ‘cut the head off the snake’.
“And if I put my wool exchange (AWEX director) hat on, the reality is I think that we are getting very close to that day.”
He believes removal of the CM description will simplify the NWD.
“What we are trying to do with all of this is simplify the NWD and make it more user-friendly and more understandable both to the exporters overseas and the wool growers of Australia.”
As an AWEX director, Mr Colley said he was comfortable with the NWD review process.
“It has been very difficult to satisfy every party and when you’ve got a situation like this, there are always going to be some aggrieved parties.”
He said AWEX has consulted widely with the industry.
“I believe that AWEX has been very transparent in the way that they have approached it and it wasn’t until the commercial ramifications filtered through to the rest of the world that it all blew up.
He believed all of the parties – the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia, the Australian Council of Wool Exporters and Processors, the Inland Wool Brokers of Australia and WoolProducers Australia – are prepared to work out a way forward that will suit everybody.
“That may mean delaying the deletion of CM for a while, but CM is going.”
He supported a CM transition period of about two years.
Mr Colley said some of AWN’s CM contract growers have transitioned completely to non-mulesing, while others are starting the process. These include growers producing 17 micron to 40 micron wool across Australia.