AWI told to keep its nose out of wool auction market

Wool brokers' boss says AWI out of touch with the bush


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Wool brokers' boss John Colley says no mechanism is needed to halt wool sales during big price drops.

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OUT OF TOUCH: John Colley, president of the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia, says Australian Wool Innovation is out of touch with rural Australia, particularly drought-hit woolgrowers.

OUT OF TOUCH: John Colley, president of the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia, says Australian Wool Innovation is out of touch with rural Australia, particularly drought-hit woolgrowers.

Australian Wool Innovation has been bluntly told to keep its nose out of the commercial operations of the wool selling system.

John Colley, president of the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia, wrote to AWI chair, Colette Garnsey, this week in response to controversial comments by the company's CEO, Stuart McCullough, on ABC radio last Friday.

Speaking after a horror week for the wool market when the eastern market indicator (EMI) shed 163 cents a kg, Mr McCullough said if the stock market had plummeted like that trading would be shutdown.

He went onto to suggest "some sort of mechanism or some sort of emergency strategy" when wool prices crashed "are probably worth considering".

Mr Colley, who is also managing director of independent broker, Australian Wool Network, described Mr McCullough's comments as "absolutely ridiculous".

In his letter to Ms Garnsey, Mr Colley said any push to halt wool auctions indicated the AWI was out of touch with rural Australia, particularly those in drought areas who needed cash from wool sales to keep financially afloat.

Mr Colley said growers had the option of withdrawing their clips from sale or passing-in their wool if prices didn't meet their reserves.

And he said growers could still make good money from an EMI of $15 a kg.

The market showed signs of stabilising on Tuesday when the EMI dropped by only 5c.

"It's not AWI's role to comment on what should happen in the commercial industry."

He said the wool market downturn had been triggered by a lack of confidence at the retail level, driven by issues such as the US-China trade war and uncertainty in Europe over Brexit.

Australia was also suffering from an oversupply of poor-quality 17.5 to 19 micron wool, thanks to the drought.

Speaking from Vietnam this week where he is visiting wool processing plants, Mr McCullough was unapologetic about his comments although he said he should have better explained his use of the word "we" referred to the whole industry rather than AWI.

GOOD TIME TO TALK: AWI CEO, Stuart McCullough, said wool industry leaders should always be trying to improve its selling system but that wasn't AWI's responsibility.

GOOD TIME TO TALK: AWI CEO, Stuart McCullough, said wool industry leaders should always be trying to improve its selling system but that wasn't AWI's responsibility.

"I think the industry collectively should always be considering improving the way wool is sold or the speed at which it is sold."

He said while last week's fall in price last week was dramatic, suggestions AWI would advocate for any market intervention was pre-emptive and not the role of the not-for-profit research, development and marketing company.

Mr McCullough said last week's 9.7pc drop in the eastern market (EMI) had been challenging for the whole industry, particularly growers struggling with drought.

He would have been just as concerned if the market had jumped by the same amount.

"I am really wanting to challenge the industry and industry leaders to have a bit of a chat about this. It's as perfect opportunity to get together and see if we can improve this (wool marketing)."

PRICE DROOP: The wool market took a turn for the worse last week when the EMI dropped by 163c on the back of world economic uncertainty.

PRICE DROOP: The wool market took a turn for the worse last week when the EMI dropped by 163c on the back of world economic uncertainty.

Meanwhile, the deep concern about the slide in the wool market will play into the AWI elections in late November when at least two long-serving directors - Wally Merriman and David Webster - are likely to face a robust challenge to their board seats.

Also causing concern is the ongoing slide in Australian wool production which is now forecast to drop by 5pc to 285 million kilograms greasy for the 2019-2020 season.

Chick Olsson, a NSW-based producer and businessman who will contest the elections on a ticket of three, asked his Twitter followers last week if AWI had mislead the wool industry regarding its claims to have increased wool demand.

Ed Storey, president of WoolProducers Australia, is urging shareholders to use the AWI elections to carefully consider the future strategic direction of the company.

Mr Storey said while AWI wasn't responsible for the current market nosedive, the company couldn't try to take the credit when prices rose but then take no blame when they headed in the opposite direction.

"Are they (AWI) responsible for this fall, no they are not. Are they responsible for all the rises we have had? No, they are not either," he said.

Mr Storey said while last week's nosedive was concerning, his organisation would strongly oppose any move to intervene in the market.

He said all markets went up and down and in times of wool price downturns, growers had the option of withholding their clips or passing them in when prices didn't meet their reserves.

"AWI has no jurisdiction in that matter, they are an R&D and marketing company."

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