MERI­NOS SOAR ON IS­LAND STORY

Tasmanian Country - - FRONT PAGE - ROGER HAN­SON

THE prove­nance story of Tas­ma­nian wool is driv­ing strong and grow­ing in­ter­est.

About three years ago the state’s big­gest wool agent Roberts ramped up its brand­ing by re­vi­tal­is­ing its Tas­ma­nian Merino project, driven by wool man­ager Alis­tair Calvert.

Roberts has owned the Tas­ma­nian Merino brand for two decades and reg­is­tered it in key mar­kets.

Wool buy­ers say a de­sire to make in­formed pur­chas­ing choices is a boon for the state.

Steve Bryce, from Mel­bourne wool-buy­ing com­pany Bale Out, said the pro­gram helped cre­ate a di­rect link be­tween grow­ers and clients.

He said there was grow­ing com­pe­ti­tion at auc­tion and the Tas­ma­nian Merino pro­gram made it eas­ier to fill or­ders.

“It’s pro­mot­ing Tas­ma­nian wool and, for ex­am­ple, when we re­quire a cer­tifi­cate of ori­gin it’s done quickly for our client. It has made the whole process eas­ier. I am get­ting re­peat busi­ness.”

Aus­tralian Merino Ex­ports’ James Thom­son, also in Mel­bourne, said his firm had a long as­so­ci­a­tion with Tas­ma­nian wool and there was good in­ter­est in the pro­gram.

“Tas­ma­nia has a strong nat­u­ral brand and we are try­ing to po­si­tion into fully trace­able sup­ply chains.”

Mr Calvert said the grow­ing in­ter­est in “place of ori­gin” aligned with a broader de­sire among con­sumers to know more about where things were grown and made.

“This cre­ates the im­per­a­tive for trace­abil­ity,” he said. “This has cre­ated fur­ther in­ter­est in Tas­ma­nian wool, es­pe­cially in the past 12 months as we en­gage with a num­ber of the world’s best-known brands.

“It’s taken us a cou­ple of years to get to this po­si­tion, but we are now be­ing over­whelmed by the in­ter­est.”

Mr Calvert said the out­look was good for the state’s en­tire clip as cus­tomers rang­ing from ul­tra­fine to 30-plus mi­cron wanted Tas­ma­nian wool.

He said the in­ter­est also had boosted auc­tion prices.

He said the state had long been as­so­ci­ated with pro­duc­ing high-qual­ity wool but that only car­ried so far.

“It’s the untold sto­ries of our farm­ers along with the in­trigue of our is­land state that can re­ally add value,” he said.

Tas­ma­nian producers sup­ply Ger­man com­pany Or­tovox, which makes pre­mium out­door wear. Mr Calvert said other users of Tas­ma­nian wool in­cluded out­door brands, Ital­ian suit­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers for brands such as Ar­mani, Yves Saint Lau­rent and Hugo Boss and high-end knit­ting-yarn mak­ers. He sin­gled out Aus­tralian re­tailer Coun­try Road for lift­ing the state’s pro­file.

“They have all recog­nised an op­por­tu­nity that with the right help Tas­ma­nia can give them a mar­ket­ing ad­van­tage.”

Sam Ni­col­son pro­duces 150 bales of su­perfine Merino wool av­er­ag­ing 16.8 mi­cron a year at his Bon­neys Plains farm at the base of Ben Lomond.

“It’s a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence and great to have the brand­ing of Tas­ma­nian wool be­cause it’s good for the fu­ture of the in­dus­try. It’s nice to have for­ward con­tracts and know you will get a good price,” he said.

The fam­ily also stopped mulesing 10 years ago and was now reap­ing the rewards.

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