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Australia will struggle to supply enough non-mulesed wool

Nigel Kerin: Wool grower NSW

Australia will struggle to supply enough non-mulesed wool

Sheep Central| Terry Sim | December 21, 2019

At the 2019 Australian Wool Innovation annual general meeting AWI chief executive officer Stuart McCullough pushed back against a suggestion it do more on non-mulesed wool marketing.

Referring to an AWI overhead of collaborating brands, including David Jones, which is moving to exclusively non-mulesed wool sourcing, NSW wool grower and Merino breeder Nigel Kerin, noted that AWI was directing its marketing toward high-end brand customers. These are Millennials familar with social media and the internet — “the most socially aware savvy connected people that you could possibly want to market to, who are familiar with social media and internet,” he said.

“I struggle to see how you can supply enough wool into that market that is not mulesed.”

Mr Kerin suggested that Australia would lose that market because it won’t be able to supply enough non-mulesed wool, and said “a tipping point is coming very quickly with what’s acceptable in this social media-driven world that we live in, that we have no control over.”

“I’ve looked at all those companies there (on the AWI brand list) and I know there are none of them that would ever want to be associated with mulesing.”

Mr McCullough replied that he took Mr Kerin’s point, but said AWI worked to sell “all wool”.

“Every kilogram of wool sells every year, every kilogram is converted to garments every year, every garment sells every year, and wool prices have gone considerably up in the last nine years, so we have no doubt there is enough demand there,” Mr McCullough said.

All our wool is getting consumed and it is getting consumed at a higher price, probably not as high as it was last year, but not bad, and we expect that to continue.

“We market at the very pinnacle of the fashion triangle because fashion filters down and they are high value garments.”

He said AWI would never market wool to retailers such as Kmart, Target, Walmart and Cosco, but when the wool price went up they would move into polyester, sending peaks and troughs down the supply chain “into your pocket”.

He said he wanted to work with partners that have elasticity in their pricing to consumer wool at $15 a kilogram or $30 a kilogram – I don’t want to work with partners who are just in the space of $15-$16.”

“So I understand your point of view, or your statement there, we work to sell all wool, no section of wool, all wool’s good wool, whether they be locks, crutchings, dags, whatever; it’s all good, it all sells and it has value.”