The future of the ceased mulesing (CM) option on the national wool declaration is in doubt as the AWEX board flags confusion concerns for growers.
Last week AWEX released its recent review of the NWD, version 9.0, with wool from sheep treated with liquid nitrogen now being identified distinct from other non-mulesed wool.
AWEX CEO Mark Grave said although the focus of the review had been the identification of wool from sheep treated with liquid nitrogen, in finalising the the 2021 review the AWEX board said it will consider the potential CM removal with the next review expected to be conducted within two years.
"This timeframe will allow stakeholders ample opportunity to consider the future of CM," Mr Grave said.
"CM is one of the areas that has come back and shown that there are potential areas of confusion of non-compliance.
"Sometimes when you go for a property declaration - a combination of property and mob - it creates more confusion.
"We are flagging to the industry one of the concerns we have is over ceased mulesing and how it applies and to at least give the industry time to think about what it means."
The prior NWD (version 8.0) was reformatted to include two questions to improve clarity and reduce errors.
The definition of CM was unchanged - No lambs born on this property in the last 12 months have been mulesed and No mulesed (or mulesed with AA) ewes or wethers have been purchased in the last 12 months.
The two questions that related to ceased mulesing (CM) status now have a 12-month timeframe.
According to AWEX data, for the 2020 season up until the end of May 2021, wool declared as CM made up 4.2 per cent of all wool declared under the NWD.
The overall national declaration rate is 75.7pc
On a state-by-state basis, Tasmania had the highest rate of wool declared under the CM type, at 11pc, with Queensland following at 7.4pc.
WA had the lowest declaration rate for CM wool, recording just 0.8pc.
The wool declared as CM also skewed towards the superfine category, with a 38.1pc declaration rate for wool under 18.6-microns, followed by 32.9pc for wool between 18.6 and 20.5-microns.
Over the past decade wool declared as NM has risen steadily from 5.5pc in 2010 to 14.9 for the 2020 season, while CM wool declarations have fluctuated, starting at 3.1pc in 2010 and dipping under 3pc for eight subsequent years, rising to 3.6pc in 2019 and 4.2pc in 2020.
WoolProducers Australia CEO Jo Hall said they had previously made requests to AWEX to remove CM on the NWD.
"In terms of error rates on the NWD, CM is the one that causes the most errors," Ms Hall said.
"We understand why it was initially put in, it was assist those to transition away from mulesing.
"But that is over 10 years ago now, so we thought by now you are either mulesed or non-mulesed."
Mr Grave said the board wanted to flag the potential removal of CM early so it allows producers to consider it fully and what it means to them.
"We don't want it to be a surprise. We wanted to get it started and there is a bigger conversation here about the application of CM and it's value to the market, its customers as well as to the growers," he said.
"It is important to give them that time. There will be a formal process put in place, but it is not starting now, that's not the intention.
"The intention is to raise it or at least put it in the radar - this will be the next consideration."
Ms Hall said they have been encouraging people to use the NWD because it provides transparency in the trade.
But she doesn't believe a mandate of the NWD will come into play.
"We will always support a market driven mechanism rather than a regulatory approach," Ms Hall said.
"We have had numerous industry discussions around this subject and those that could actually facilitate this happening, are not willing to step up."
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