Is there a crisis in the wool industry?

Is there a crisis in the wool industry?

Merino ewes with their lambs being moved between paddocks in the Riverina

Merino ewes with their lambs being moved between paddocks in the Riverina


History would suggest controversy within the wool industry has been around since the first sheep landed on the colonial shores.


Controversy is not new to the wool industry: indeed an understanding of the history of producing wool in this country will show differences of opinion have long been a factor in driving it’s preeminent position.

Contention is not necessarily be negative, but can instead be a powerful force in lifting productivity.

It was by taking stock of all the best of each opinion and using it for individual gain that the wool industry has survived many price slumps and booms throughout the past two hundred years.

Such is the emotional awareness associated with wool production, there have been many issues that have divided the industry but none have never torn it apart.

Perhaps genetically, we might take the difference between those who favored the Vermont-type with their concertinaed skins against the plainer bodied sheep as one divisive issue which affected the thinking of wool growers during the late 19th century.

Ultimately, market and seasonal conditions prevailed and the plainer bodied sheep with their greater adaptability to the country and productive capacity proved more profitable.   

Or closer to living memory, and perhaps still within the experience of some wool growers was the highly charged debate which occurred when many in the industry favoured the introduction of a form of marketing scheme during the early 1960’s.

The vitriol hurled against supporters of each faction by their opponents during those energetic debates has not been seen to such an extent until the current embroilment. 

There are many who had business enterprises severely impacted by the demise the buffer scheme, but ultimately the industry survived albeit in a much smaller context than is thought necessary.

Recent events surrounding the conduct of the current Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) are, in the perspective of history, not unusual.

It is unfortunate the debate has descended to the very basic level of personality, because that is in itself counterproductive, taking away the impact the very real gains now enjoyed by those who have stuck with the industry. 

With wool and sheep prices at unprecedented levels, perhaps it is time for the industry to reflect on the gains made during the stewardship of the current board. 

The Land has many contacts within the wool industry from production to sale, and there is a wide difference of opinion about the present dissension. 

For all the vocal commendation Wal Merriman has been subjected, the beleaguered chairman of AWI has strong support among many wool growers who see his positive efforts during his time at the helm finally coming to fruition.

Merino wool and sheep prices have made remarkable gains coming on the back of a long period in the doldrums.

No doubt the upcoming meeting to be held in Sydney on Friday will see rigorous debate; the industry is greater than the individuals, and it is hoped, after the meeting it does not fracture beyond redemption.

Whatever the outcome, it must be remembered the market will make the ultimate decision with the pricing set for wool and sheep to be determined by demand.

The Merino is a remarkable animal, constantly evolving and able to be constantly adapted to meet contemporary market conditions.

If a premium is to be paid for wool or sheep bred and produced in a certain way, then producers will react accordingly and try to meet those new standards within the constraints of their country.

The story Is there a crisis in the wool industry? first appeared on The Land.


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