ITALY’S wool trade has told Australia’s superfine growers it is facing a crisis with customers soon to cease accepting products originating from mulesed Merino sheep.
Just as Australian Superfine Wool Growers Association members are considering voting to make non-mulesing a membership requirement, it has been sent an open letter from the Italian Wool Trade Association.
Three ASWGA members have proposed that members be allowed to vote on becoming “a non-mulesed organisation” through a change to the body’s constitution, that would mean superfine growers who mules their sheep could not be ASWGA members.
IWTA president Claudio Lacchio told Sheep Central the association did not want to interfere with internal ASWGA issues nor comment on whether the ASWGA should have a vote on the issue.
“It is their internal issue, we just wanted to send, once again and after more than 25 years of a never-ending debate, the message that a certain market needs non-mulesed wool, and that many brands have set a deadline on this by 2025, which means buying the raw material now or in the next few months for 2025 garments in the shop.”
In the IWTA letter, Mr Lacchio said for the past 20 years, the Italian wool trade has been delivering the message to the Australian wool industry that an increasing number of its customers are refusing to use wool from sheep that have been mulesed.
“The Italian wool trade is now facing the crisis that their customers will cease to accept wool products from mulesed sheep in the very near future. Around the world the list of brands and retailers on this path increases every day,” Mr Lacchio wrote.
“This market intelligence is passed onto to ASWGA not as an ultimatum but as the stark reality facing both our industries.
“There is a critical need for coherent messages from customers of Australian fine wool being delivered to members through a strong ASWGA,” he wrote in the letter.
“With regard to this current discussion, we feel it very important to note the role of ASWGA as being the information conduit between the Italian wool trade and producers of superfine wool. The Italian wool trade association wants to help facilitate this whenever and wherever possible.”
When asked if there was a need for leadership on the issue of mulesing in the Australian industry, Mr Lacchio told Sheep Central “we don’t have much time left” to take action.
“I believe the Australian industry is so much behind in this area that we don’t have much time left, actually none, having been discussing the same issue for the last 25 years with little, if any, solution.”
Mr Lacchio would not be drawn on whether the role of the ASWGA as the information conduit between the Italian wool trade and producers of superfine wool might be jeopardised if the growers association did not pursue the proposed constitutional change.
“We just think that the message should be loud and clear, about the need for the market of non-mulesed wools.
“The link and relationship of ASWGA with the Italian textile industry goes back many years and they produce in terms of quality, the wool we are after, so our letter goes in this direction, the one of reinforcing a concept too-long discussed.”
Mr Lacchio said there are now alternatives to Australian wool.
“It is just a pity, and a shame I may add, for our fellow Australian growers to lose the opportunity to compete in the highest end of the apparel market in the near future.”
Click here to read the full IWTA letter.