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May 2020, Woolproducers President Report
Ed Storey


The impacts of COVID-19 are really starting to bite woolgrowers nationally. While initially cautious of stating market disruption was solely the result of COVID-19, over the past month it has been proven that the wool market has taken a severe hit due to the pandemic.

Whilst the time and resources that WoolProducers is spending on COVID-19 is reducing as protocols, guidance and contingency plans have been established for all sectors of industry, we are now turning our energy into assessing the impacts that COVID-19 is having on the industry in a global context, and we are trying to determine how industry manages in post-pandemic world.

WoolProducers has this week launched a woolgrower survey to better understand exactly how COVID-19 is affecting their business. This anonymous, short survey covers financial impact to businesses; woolgrower actions regarding selling their clip; access to, and uptake of, government assistance measures, as well as availability of inputs and labour requirements. By filling out this survey, woolgrowers will assist WoolProducers in better advocating grass-root requirements that are needed now and into the future.
 
The survey can be accessed on our dedicated COVID-19 webpage, where you’ll also find wool relevant information, or via direct link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CPLXDWZ We are looking to have a finalised report from this survey by the end of May. It only takes five minutes to complete, so please take the time to have your say now.
 
The continued drop in prices is causing woolgrowers considerable concern in the short and medium-term. The short-term issue is that China remains to have a captive market as India and Italy cannot buy wool due to domestic regulated lock down measures, meaning that only one buyer out of the top three importing countries is currently active – hence the dramatic drop in price. We are hopeful that both India, Italy and other purchasing countries will return to the market soon.
 
Looking to the medium-term, with the high pass-in and withdrawal rates of wool coupled with the stockpiling of the clip, there will be a glut in the marked that will need to work through the system. This in concert with a global slump in retail demand paints a tough picture for the next 18-months to two years for Australia woolgrowers.
 
In saying that, we know that woolgrowers are resilient and have overcome adversity many times before. We continue to hope that this uncertain period will be over as soon as possible.
 
WoolProducers continue to work on other areas affecting our industry outside of COVID-19.
 
During the past month we have had significant input in the policy development of the National Farmers Federation (NFF) biosecurity and animal welfare policies. These policies will be put up to the NFF’s Members Council for ratification at their Members Council to be held on 13 May.
 
Continuing with the animal welfare and biosecurity theme, WoolProducers convened a videoconference of our Animal Health and Welfare Advisory Committee (AHWAC). This committee is comprised of our Board, with the addition of representatives from the Australian Superfine Wool Growers Association, Australian Wool Growers Association, Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders and the Australian Veterinary Association.
 
WoolProducers established this committee in 2014, with the aim of having input from each of the sectors of industry, as well as trying to enhance unity within industry.
 
WoolProducers will be holding their next AHWAC and Executive meetings via videoconference on 20 and 21 May.
 
On the trade side of industry WoolProducers met with Elisabeth Bowes, Chief Negotiator for the AU-UK FTA to discuss a range of potential issues and opportunities relating to the wool industry under this arrangement.
 
WoolProducers has contributed to the Australia-China Relations Institute report ‘COVID-19 and the Australia-China relationship’s zombie economic idea’. This report looks to counter the argument that Australia is too reliant on China for trade, particularly in times of the current pandemic.
 
We continue to make representations on behalf of industry to the Federal Government and have held constructive conversations over the past month with both departmental and ministerial representatives on issues affecting our industry.
 
This month also saw the launch of the review into WoolPoll by the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment (DAWE). This review was one of the 82 recommendations from the 2018 Ernst Young Review of Performance of AWI and is aiming to make the WoolPoll process as relevant and effective to woolgrowers as possible. WoolProducers will be making a submission into this process.
 
DAWE has released a WoolPoll review discussion paper and developed a survey for interested stakeholders to contribute to this process. Written submissions are also being accepted. The public consultation will close on 29 May and all information can be found here:
https://haveyoursay.agriculture.gov.au/woolpoll-review
 
Whilst there are some challenging times ahead for our woolgrowers, we will continue to work in the best interests of all woolgrowers across the vast array of issues that impact their families and livelihoods.
 
Keep safe and healthy.
 
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