How is the wool supply chain dealing with coronavirus?

How is the wool supply chain dealing with coronavirus?

MIXING IT UP: Wool sales are resuming on the show floors of the woolstores, like here at Fremantle, WA.

MIXING IT UP: Wool sales are resuming on the show floors of the woolstores, like here at Fremantle, WA.


The wool supply chain is a long one with lots of people and processes involved.


The wool supply chain is a long one and with lots of people and processes involved, how exactly is the industry dealing with coronavirus?

Shearing and classing

Shearing operations have cut the amount of people allowed in sheds by half, in order to maintain social distancing.

This then doubles the time it takes for shearing to get finished, but Shearing Contractors Association of Australia secretary Jason Letchford says that's one negative in overall a mostly positive situation.

Mr Letchford said shearing companies, wool classers and farmers themselves were finding ways to make things work, and were grateful to still be allowed to work in this uncertain period.

READ MORE: Fears NZ contractors won't be able to return for spring shearing


An important part of getting wool ready for sale is having it tested, and this is conducted by the Australian Wool Testing Authority.

AWTA raw wool general manager Ian Ashman said the company was taking practical steps to minimise any disruption to wool testing services.

These measures included access to laboratories being restricted to essential staff only, segregating or isolating staff in different departments within the buildings where possible and ceasing all non-essential face-to-face visits between staff and visitors

AWTA has two laboratories in Australia - one in Melbourne and one in Bibra Lake, WA - and Mr Ashman said should one need to be closed down, they would ensure the other was still able to operate.

"Obviously the situation is dynamic and changing on a daily basis but our overall focus is simple - do whatever is safe and practical to keep the laboratories running and the test results flowing to our clients," he said.

Preparing for sale

Elders wool technical officer Matt Tattersall said not much had changed at the woolstores in terms of preparing wool for sale.

"We're practicing social distancing between other staff member and are trying to keep tasks to one person handling [the wool] to minimise risk," Mr Tattersall said.

"We also rotate working from home to keep numbers in the office low."


At this stage, open cry auctions are still proceeding with social distancing and personal hygiene restrictions in place.

The National Auction Selling Committee said those attending sales were recommended to exercise personal responsibility for social distancing measures.

Auctions have also been moved from the sale rooms to the show floors at each of the selling centres, so there is more space for individuals to keep their distance.

WoolQ and AuctionsPlus are also conducting sales online but these are only of small volumes.

Australian Council of Wool Exporters and Processors executive director Peter Morgan said they had also trialled remote bidding where both the buyers and the auctioneers operated from their own offices, rather than in the sale room.

READ MORE:How best to sell wool in uncertain times


On the export side of the supply chain, Mr Morgan said in the early stages of COVID-19, available shipping space was difficult to get access to, but that had since improved.

"Some of this was due to vessels out of China needing to go through the necessary two weeks quarantine period and some 'blank' sailings where goods were bypassed," Mr Morgan said.

"Shipping is much more settled now with exporters advising that they can generally get space, but some take the approach of booking earlier to ensure that the space is available."

READ MORE: Coronavirus to impact major wool consuming countries' economies


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