AUSTRALIA’S wool exporters have joined brokers in voicing concerns at purported “unanimous” agreement that Australian Wool Innovation’s Wool Exchange Portal project proceed.
Australian Council of Wool Exporters and Processors president Matthew Hand said AWI chairman Wal Merriman’s recent statement that brokers, buyers and growers unanimously agree that the WEP proceed is not correct from ACWEP’s perspective.
Mr Merriman’s made his WEP support statement in a personal letter to AWI shareholders last week, supporting his preferred candidates in the current AWI board election. The National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia last week also refuted they agreed the WEP should proceed.
Mr Hand said exporters understood that the WEP would, in its first iteration, be an information hub for wool growers.
“Our association understands the potential value of such a development, provided that it does not become a point of unauthorized access to confidential commercial information.”
But he said ACWEP does have sincere grower-based concerns beyond this stage.
“We are yet to fully learn how it is ultimately intended to operate and where any significant cost benefits or market gains will be achieved.
“In this respect we also see significant benefits can be gained by closer collaboration between AWI, AWTA and AWEX,” he said.
“If the ultimate aim is deliver cost benefits to the industry and increase ‘competitive tension’, elimination of cost duplication throughout the pipeline will benefit investors.”
Mr Hand said the bulletin board concept of offering wool for sale is not new and operates with limited support on a number of Australian-based platforms. It has also been in place in China for a short time, although doubtfully inspired by the proposed WEP, he said.
Mr Merriman also claimed that a Chinese company Red Sun was “building a complementary portal”, but Mr Hand said ACWEP had been advised that the processor was not doing this.
“As we have previously stated, exporters and processors are the first entity to purchase and finance wool, fund the initial transaction, safely deliver growers’ wool to combers, spinners, knitters and weavers reaching garment producers and fashion labels throughout the globe.
“If a WEP becomes our first point of access, we will continue to perform the same functions,” Mr Hand said.
“We only ask that we are consulted and that we have significant involvement in further development of the WEP to ensure that the key “first transaction” happens securely, ensuring Australian wool growers can continue to be rewarded for their long-term commitment to producing this special fibre.”
Mr Hand also said AWI can certainly be proud to be among the researchers, manufacturers and marketing teams that have enabled production of a far wider range of garments with strong consumer appeal; active wear, sportswear, high fashion items, next to skin apparel.
“However, it’s perhaps a little arrogant for any individual organisation to claim price rises are a direct result of their work alone.”
Mr Hand said ACWEP was aware of commentary regarding the eligibility or suitability of different AWI board candidates in the media.
“It is our opinion that for an investment of this level it is fair that wool growers expect a board of directors consisting of individuals with unconditional eligibility and who collectively possess a supreme depth and breadth of industry knowledge.”
In a comment on the Sheep Central website this week, a former WEP Working Group member, Victorian wool grower Ron Lawrance, defended Wal Merriman’s statement of unanimous support for the WEP.
“At the WEP meeting held earlier this year, prior to submission to the AWI board, there was unanimous support; zero members voted against the motion and none abstained.
“This is recorded in the minutes of the meeting. This meeting included members of AWEX, as well as brokers, exporters, growers and the AWTA,” he said.
Click here to read Mr Merriman’s letter.
Click here to read the full ACWEP statement.