A TEN-YEAR Merino-focussed strategic plan for Australia’s wool industry has been released, with aims to increase the size and value of the nation’s flock.
However, Australia’s grower bodies have already expressed doubts about the implementation of the plan and the level of support for voluntary industry representatives.
Chief executive officer of the peak grower body WoolProducers Australia, Jo Hall, said implementation of the strategy “will be the real test.”
“The Wool 2030 Strategy is a very high-level document for the wool industry to consider; however, in terms of achieving actual outcomes for industry, the implementation of the strategy will be the real test,” she said.
Australian Wool Grower Association director Robert Ingram has called for the plan’s ‘aspirational’ targets on animal welfare and customer needs to be met and for greater support for voluntary industry representatives who will oversee implementation.
Australian Wool Innovation released the Wool 2030 plan yesterday, with a target of growing the value of the wool industry by 2.5 percent annually from 2019/20 up to 2030. The plan said this growth is to come from an increase in value per head of sheep of 15pc and an increase in flock size from 67 to 75 million, with an increased proportion of Merinos in the ewe flock.
The plan’s strategy is underpinned by five pillars, which outline key objectives relating to animal welfare, marketing, communicating with customers, transforming production systems with innovation and fostering a prosperous wool-growing community.
- Caring for our animals and the environment
This pillar states that growers have the confidence and tools to manage flystrike without mulesing, Australian wool production is moving towards carbon neutrality, more than 50pc of wool is sold under a quality certification scheme and wool growers are earning income from ecosystems services, including for carbon mitigation.
- Marketing the world’s most desirable fibre
This pillar states that new wool products are developed to meet evolving consumer needs and that Australian wool attracts a price premium over equivalent wools from other countries.
- Communicating with our customers
This pillar states that Australian wool growers understand the market(s) they serve and that 95pc of Australian wool is sold with a completed National Wool Declaration or equivalent by June 2022.
- Transforming our production systems through innovation
This pillar states that lamb weaning rates increase by five percentage points, genetic gain is 2pc per annum and the cost of harvesting reduces by 3pc per annum in real terms.
- Fostering a prosperous wool-growing community.
This pillar states that staff and contractors feel valued by the industry, the Australian wool industry is seen to be united and cohesive, and wool-growing is perceived as a satisfying and profitable pursuit.
Wool 2030 provides a strong industry vision – McCullough
Australian Wool Innovation chief executive officer Stuart McCullough welcomed the release of the plan and thanked everyone involved in shaping it.
“Wool 2030 provides the wool industry with a strong vision over the next 10 years.
“There is a lot of work to be done now to implement the plan, but also a lot of goodwill to do so, and AWI looks forward to aligning our strategic intent with this wool industry plan going forward,” he said.
Plan’s aspirational intent and support needs to be stronger – AWGA
The Wool 2030 plan says it “has deliberately been designed as a high-level, aspirational statement of intent and strategy for Australian wool growers.
“To meet the targets of the plan, the pillars and strategies set out in this document must be translated into concrete actions and responsibilities.”
AWI said it is proposed that oversight of the plan will be provided by a Wool 2030 Steering Group comprising an independent chair, and representatives of national wool grower and stud breeder organisations plus members from all sectors of the wool pipeline.
AWGA director and WICP member Robert Ingram said he was concerned about the support being offered to industry people expected to oversee the plan.
“If you have people who are committed to the industry and you want them involved, you’ve got to give them an incentive to be there, or you have got to properly reward them for being there.
“To pay them $500 a meeting is ridiculous,” he said.
Mr Ingram, who was also a WoolPoll panel member, said the reading and background study needed is enormous, but representatives were only paid for meeting costs.
“It is a cultural reflection of the lack of importance placed on the time of the people who need to be involved in those committees.
“These things require time and dedication … if you want that, you’ve got to pay for it,” he said.
“AWI has to review how it works with these industry groups and particularly the voluntary people who are on these committees to deliver the strategy.”
Mr Ingram said the industry needs to go beyond the setting of aspirational targets in the plan, especially in regard to animal welfare and customer expectations of wool’s social licence.
“I hope I am around in 10 years’ time to see how well we have delivered (the strategy).
“I want to see those aspirational targets met, because if we don’t meet them I think we will have serious problems with our markets.”
The plan said responsibility for the implementation for Wool 2030 extends beyond AWI to organisations and individuals across the Australian wool industry, and implementation will require close and constructive collaboration.
AWI said more than 800 wool growers helped write the report that was overseen by AWI’s Wool Consultation Group and the WICP.
Plan reflects deep desire to meet consumer expectations
AWI said WICP chairman Lyndsey Douglas is confident the industry has a bright future.
“We know that positioning wool as a rewarding, profitable land-use choice to the next generation landholder is core to meeting our growth targets.
“A deep desire to meet the expectations of consumers worldwide is reflected in the Wool 2030 tagline: the world’s premium sustainable fibre,” she said.
Chairman of leading fashion label Ermenegildo Zegna Group, Paolo Zegna di Monte Rubello said Australian wool is “the most exceptional wool in the world”.
“Experience, quality and tradition are the hallmarks that have made Australia the international leader, both in terms of quality and quantity, and therefore also in worldwide exports of wool.”
AWI said key themes from the Wool 2030 plan include:
- The need for better communication and understanding along the wool pipeline.
- More growers need to know what products their wool goes into, and what customers are seeking.
- Growers can provide customers with more information about their product, especially concerning its provenance
- Sustainability is a key attribute sought by today’s consumer, and Australian wool will continue to be promoted for its ‘natural’ advantages of being renewable, recyclable and biodegradable
- Improved animal welfare will be an ongoing focus
- The Merino ewe will continue to be the cornerstone of the Australian flock
- The harnessing of new technology promises on-farm efficiencies and solutions to longstanding challenges such as wool harvesting and parasite control
- People are also a focus of the plan, which envisions a united, cohesive industry that attracts younger generations.
Steering group to include young industry participants
Oversight of the Wool 2030 plan will be provided by a Wool 2030 Steering Group comprising an independent chair and representatives of national wool grower and stud breeder organisations, AWI, AWEX and AWTA, the Department of Agriculture Water and the Environment, national broker, exporters and private merchant bodies, a major international processor of Australian wool and a major fashion house using Australian wool, with supplementation from other bodies.
“In particular, it is vital that the group includes a high proportion of younger industry participants,” the plan said.
The steering group will meet every six months by videoconference and have an extended, face-to-face meeting every three years to review and revise the plan. The first of these meetings should take place six months or so prior to the development of AWI’s 2025/26-2027/28 Strategic Plan.
The plan said it is anticipated that the steering group will operate on consensus decision-making, founded on an understanding that Wool 2030 exists primarily to further the interests of Australian wool growers. Funding and administrative support for the steering group will be provided by AWI as part of its strategic planning consultation process. A central role of the steering group will be to measure progress against the targets in this plan. Data to demonstrate progress will be collected from a range of sources. A long-term plan for the wool industry was a recommendation of the 2018 Review of Performance of AWI.
The full Wool 2030 strategy can be found here.