Welcome to the July edition of the WoolProducers’ Presidents report.
Firstly, WoolProducers released our ‘Assessment of the impacts of COVID-19 on wool growing enterprises’. Key findings from this survey included that the vast majority of woolgrowers believe that COVID-19 has impacted their businesses both in financial and non-financial ways, including significant reductions in income, difficulties accessing farm inputs and labour, and declines in the wool price seeing many woolgrowers withhold or withdraw their wool from sale at auction, leading to reduced cashflows.
After analysing the results, WoolProducers has made a number of recommendations to the federal government for short-term assistance measures and medium and long-term recovery support activities to assist Australian woolgrowers.
The current environment and operations of the wool industry due to the pandemic, both domestically and internationally have the ability to potentially affect the viability of wool growing businesses in the short, medium, and long term.
WoolProducers has therefore identified a number of actions that government can undertake to assist Australian woolgrowers during this difficult time.
The short-term activities are designed to help with immediate cash-flow and support services, including more effective communications regarding currently available government support measures.
While medium- to long-term recovery policy requests are aimed at trade diversification and other activities to mitigate trade exposure risks.
A number of meetings have been organised with relevant government representatives and MPs to discuss this report.
We have also continued to work with the Shearing Contractors Association of Australia, the Western Australian Shearing Industry Association and the National Farmers’ Federation to advocate for the streamlining of visa applications for New Zealand wool harvesting staff for the upcoming Spring shearing season. Joint letters have been sent to state agricultural ministers, relevant federal ministers and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE).
WoolProducers has also met with DAWE to discuss the WoolPoll Review. DAWE has been conducting targeted consultations with others who made submissions as well as meeting with AWI’s Woolgrower Consultation Group. The department intends to publish its final report around September 2020. This is to ensure the department, the wool industry and AWI can consider the findings in advance of preparations commencing for the 2021 WoolPoll.
WoolProducers has recently been working on a number of issues in the trade space. During the beginning of negotiations of the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement (A-UK FTA) CEO, Jo Hall and General Manager, Ashley Cooper, along with AWI’s Communications Manager, Western Hemisphere, the Minister Counsellor (Agriculture) from the Australian High Commission in London to discuss wool relevant issues in readiness for the negotiations. We have met with the UK-FTA team of DAWE’s Trade and Market Access Division to outline our preliminary positions on the A-UK FTA, and have previously met with the negotiations team from DFAT to do the same.
We made a submission into the Joint Standing on Trade and Investment Growth inquiry into ‘Diversifying Australia’s trade and investment profile’. The submission outlines the symbiotic relationship that the Australian wool industry has with China, that has been built over a number of decades.
However, we cannot dismiss the need for market diversification. Following the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on the Australian wool industry to date, woolgrowers want market diversification.
This diversification could mean increased export volumes to nations other than China that already purchase our greasy wool for processing, such as India, or it could also be the establishment of new markets; but these markets must have the logistics to process wool while also having the capacity to pay for our product. So, WoolProducers Australia believes that while China is our Plan A, we need to refine our Plan B, which will be China plus other countries, but this strategy must not be to the detriment of our relationship with China.
We also met with DAWE and the National Farmers’ Federation this month to discuss the Biosecurity Amendment (Traveller Declarations and Other Measures) Bill 2020 prior to making a submission into the public consultation on the Bill conducted by the Senate Standing Committees on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport. WoolProducers strongly supports the Bill as it is consistent with our long-held policy and previous advocacy efforts to increase penalties for biosecurity infringements at our border.
As always, WoolProducers will continue to work in the best interests of Australian woolgrowers on any issue that effects our production sector.
Keep safe and healthy.