THE Australian wool industry’s reputation is under threat with deteriorating clip preparation standards increasing according to some wool exporters.
Modiano Australia, one of the major buyers of Australian wool with the largest single wool top making plant in Europe, sounded a warning on compromised clip preparation standards.
“There was a long held view that you’d pay more for Australian wool because it was correctly prepared,” Modiano Australia director of wool buying, Lou Morsch said.
“Unfortunately we are losing that reputation.”
While only one per cent of Merino fleeces and 1.8pc of Merino pieces were reported as non-conforming, a significant 8.7pc of crossbred fleece, pieces and bellies were non-conforming to Australian Wool Exchange(AWEX) Code of Practice for the Preparation of Australian Wool Clips.
Modiano Australia senior wool buyer Geoff Wild said European mills were taking a strong stance against clips which lacked preparation with heavy discounts applied in the auction room.
“We do not represent the 80pc of the clip that goes to China, where it appears clip preparation standards doesn’t seem to be so important for some users.”
Most wool offered for sale in Australia is prepared by a qualified and registered wool classer in accordance with the code, with the objective to prepare uniform, consistent, reliable, predictable, low risk lines of wool.
Due to market forces and a change in demand, Mr Wild attributed the depreciated prices paid in recent times especially for crossbred wool to the deterioration in clip preparation.
Also China’s thirst for wools with little focus on wool preparation has damaged Australia's reputation as a premium supplier
“Some of our Chinese competitors don’t seem as selective and that is where the industry has gone backwards in the last 20 years - we’ve minimised our preparation,” he said.
“It is as simple as it gets, if it is poorly prepared, unskirted‘ and doesn't meet our standards, it gets discounted.
“At the end of the day there is growing demand from clients requiring high quality tops with strict specifications, so we need to be confident we are buying wool that meets their requirements.”
With current market levels, Mr Wild encouraged growers to pay more attention to preparation of their wool to ensure maximum competition at auction.
Both buyers slammed the industry acceptance of the ‘D’ certificate – wool not prepared by a registered classer or is deemed below the AWEX wool classers Code of Practice – as well as conforming lots.
“We are our own worst enemy because the industry has allowed this to happen,” Mr Wild said.
“D certificate, non-conforming and buyer beware should be heavily discounted because there is no certainty and a potential risk to them.
“Sadly, the majority of woolgrowers who do apply extra care and attention haven’t received the premiums they should be but we are seeing that starting to change now.”
Strong competition and better prices for well prepared wools has been evident at recent auction sales.
Karee Wool owner Alister Carr said with premiums increasing from 10 to 15c/kg on classed crossbred wool, it was a warning worth taking heed of.
“When crossbreds were at a high point mid-way through 2016, everything was paid maximum prices, even poorly presented articles,” Mr Carr said.
“Buyers have become more selective paying premiums on the classed crossbred wools which are clearly coming through the market place, and are greater for merino lots.”
AWEX wool classer registrar Fiona Raleigh said poor wool preparation could lead to lost markets.
“If standards slip, that creates doubt in the buyers’ minds and they could lose trust in your product and go elsewhere to source their wool,” Ms Raleigh said.
“There have been growers taking short cuts to lower their costs, the consequence is buyers may potentially have limited options to purchase well prepared clips.”
“I’ve noticed with the increase in mutton and lamb prices there are more producers’ opportune running mixed length mobs and breeds, making it more difficult for Classers to do their job.”
Ms Raleigh said wool prepared by a registered classer was seen by buyers as a low risk, quality product.
“There are good growers out there but then there are some where the wool is seen secondary to the mutton game but their wool is still going to the market so they need to adhere to the standard,” she said.
To ensure classing was to the AWEX code of practice standard, Ms Raleigh said growers should ensure the wool preparation team was matched to handle the output of the shearing team, all documentation was completed correctly and to avoid pressing overweight bales.