Livestock producers have embraced electronic selling, with millions of sheep and huge numbers of cattle sold this way each year, but woolgrowers have largely resisted the digital age.
In 2017-18, 2.9 million sheep and 375,000 cattle were listed on Auctions Plus but only 11,116 bales of wool were traded online – a fraction of the volumes in one week’s auction catalogue.
But 2019 could be the turning point with WoolQ Market, an online trading portal, expected to be launched in March.
AuctionsPlus is also focused on lifting its offer board wool volumes and plans to hold regular online auctions. It relaunched WoolTrade in December as AuctionsPlus Wool.
Australian Wool Innovation has invested more than $3 million of growers’ money building and launching WoolQ in an attempt to encourage an online wool selling culture.
In 2018 it delivered the industry’s first electronic specification plus an online woolgrower directory.
To-date more than 350 electronic wool specifications have been created involving more than 5500 bales.
There has been plenty of discussion about AWI’s involvement in an area of and potential duplication with AuctionsPlus’ plans, but many believe the next phase WoolQ Market will be the measure of its success.
WoolQ chairman Will Wilson says they are conducting pilot trading sessions with Australian brokers and buyers for WoolQ Market.
“With more than 1700 individual woolgrowers registered, when launched around the end of the first quarter of 2019, WoolQ Market will provide the market with a fully automated online wool trading platform,” he said.
It will provide two buying and selling opportunities, an online bulletin board available 24 hours a day as well as an online auction that will operate at specific times outside the traditional open cry auction.
Michell Wool chief executive officer Steven Read says they are supportive of the WoolQ concept and keen to trial it when online trading commences.
“Online selling of wool is nothing new. A big part of our business is selling processed wool online – we don’t run off to the airport to visit our export market clients with a sample of wool every time we want to sell them a container of wool,” he said.
But Mr Read says WoolQ’s success will come down to clear trading guidelines for how the wool is typed and valued and how disputes will be resolved.
“If we are spending $3000 on a bale of wool you want an idea of what it is – a simple return policy such as ones that exist in the case of buying a gadget from Amazon is not likely to work in our part of industry,” he said.
“The trade needs to understand if you have a problem with the wool bought through the system do you go back to the grower, to AWI or to WoolQ or the broker if he is still involved in the transaction – ultimately the trade needs to understand who is going to stand behind the sale.”
AuctionsPlus chief executive officer Angus Street says growers will be the “winners” from increased choice.
“Many of our clients are offering Merino sheep so as an extension they are growing and selling wool,” he said.
“We are working out how we can integrate our AuctionsPlus Wool into the AuctionsPlus livestock section so they can jump on and follow wool they have on offer.”
Mr Street does not expect wool online trading volumes to overtake the number of bales sold at auction anytime soon but believes it should be viewed by growers as a “complementary service” to manage risk and market volatility.
“The speed of change is growing exponentially, especially with technology and whether we like it or not livestock producers, woolgrowers and even poultry, will all be impacted,” Mr Street said.
“The feedback from buyers is that they would like more wool to help fill an export order.”
WoolQ to solve in-shed errors
WOOLQ is a great way for growers to build their networks across the wool industry, according to Lucindale-based woolgrower, classer and broker Steph Brooker-Jones.
“Growers can create their own business profiles and interact with other growers and possibly in the future, direct with the trade,” she said.
The Elders district wool manager was early to register for WoolQ, seeing it as important.
“The majority of business and commodities now have online access and trading platforms,” she said.
In the past few months she has filled out e-specifications for her own shearing as well as encouraging several of her clients and woolclassers have a look at the WoolQ site and register for further information
“We have to get woolgrowers, woolclassers and even the pressers in the shearing shed on board,” she said.
She has found it user friendly with good support from Wool Q staff as well as on-line tutorials.
“It is no different to other computer programs- the more you use it the better you get,” she said.
Ms Brooker-Jones says it should solve one of the industry’s sginificant challenges – discrepancies in paperwork.
“We have so many errors with duplicate bales, misdescribed bales or bales not turning up in store but with WoolQ you cannot duplicate bales and allocate bales to the wrong lines,” she said.
The brokers’ role may change if increased numbers of bales are sold online but she does not see them becoming obsolete.
“Wool still has to be received and tested somewhere. If you are selling wool overseas, exporters require wool test certificates and letters of credit, so we still need brokers and stores,” she said.
“There will continue to be other marketing options and outlets outside of the auction system that need to be assessed and accessible to growers and buyers.”
- Details: woolq.com