The end of an era is coming to Portland as a major player in Australia's wool industry.
Australia's biggest wool handling company AWH this week announced it was moving its Portland store to the heart of Victoria's woolgrowing region in Hamilton.
AWH says it has already exchanged contracts for an existing metal and timber truss warehouse in Theatre Drive, Hamilton and has no plans yet for its sprawling site in Portland.
The company says Portland no longer offers the supply chain efficiencies it once did and its importance has largely been replaced by the port at Melbourne.
The major use of the new site, expected to be operational early next year, will be receiving/handling, sampling and delivery of greasy wool for AWH's wool brokering customers - Nutrien Ag Solutions and Elders.
AWH is co-owned by global logistics company DP World Australia and Nutrien.
Portland has a long history in the wool industry since the arrival of the Henty's with their sheep to begin European settlement back in 1834.
Whaling strengthened the port's importance but wool handling has always done big business in Victoria's oldest town as well.
Portland remains a busy port, handling in excess of $2 billion in trade annually.
It remains one of Victoria's four major shipping ports, handling bulk cargoes such as plantation woodchips and logs, grain, aluminium products, mineral sands, fertiliser, livestock and wind tower components.
AWH has 14 wool stores around Australia and about 30 brokers nationally.
AWH handles almost two thirds of all wool offered at auction and 20-25 per cent of the cotton crop exported export annually.
AWH national wool manager David Mitchell said it was planned AWH would start wool receivals at Hamilton in February or March 2022.
This follows the finalisation of a subdivision of the Theatre Drive land near Bunnings and completion of some capital works which will extend the undercover roof area to about 6600 square metres.
Mr Mitchell said the purchase of the Hamilton site allows the AWH Portland wool store to be relocated closer to the largest wool growing region in Victoria.
He said AWH's wool broker customers had been keen for some time for AWH to have a presence in Hamilton.
"With shearing patterns changing in recent years and a requirement in some cases to sell on consignment, a wool receival location closer to the point of harvest and central to the western Victorian wool growing region will be a welcome development."
Based on forecast wool volumes in the region, it is expected the Hamilton wool store will be a busy site.
While no decision has been made on the date of closure of the Portland site, those wool growers who have traditionally delivered to Portland will be able to direct their wool to AWH's wool stores in Hamilton, Lara (Geelong), or Brooklyn (Melbourne).
Mr Mitchell said a number of AWH Portland staff would help in the start-up of the Hamilton site and it was likely AWH would also be looking to employ locally from the Hamilton district.
"AWH is excited to have a presence in one of the most important wool growing regions of Australia."
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