RID­ING ON THE SHEEP’S BACK

Global wool de­mand sky­rock­et­ing

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - NEWS - MICHAEL MADI­GAN

THE dog days of the wool in­dus­try are ending as prices sky­rocket, and gra­ziers pon­der a re­turn to the golden years of the 1950’s when Queens­land rode on the sheep’s back.

The State Gov­ern­ment backed fenc­ing pro­gram which is keep­ing out the wild dogs which brought the in­dus­try to its knees is just part of an un­fold­ing story about to reignite economies across the west. Global de­mand for Aus­tralian wool, in­clud­ing a Chi­nese Gov­ern­ment pro­gram to fit out hun­dreds of mil­lion of pub­lic ser­vants in woollen uni­forms, has pushed wool to prices not seen in a gen­er­a­tion.

David Hen­der­son, Queens­land rep for mar- keter “Qual­ity Wool’’ which is head­quar­tered in Ade­laide, said a five year up­ward trend in wool prices spiked last month when the East­ern Mar­ket In­di­ca­tor hit 1614 cents a kilo­gram – the high­est on record.

Ten years ago wool was sell­ing at around 900 cents a kilo­gram but just as the min­ing boom ended around 2011, the graph be­gan an up­ward tra­jec­tory which many age­ing western Queens­land gra­ziers still can’t quite be­lieve.

“Many doubted the gains could be sus­tained but we have main­tained them for more than five years now,” Mr Hen­der­son said. “And the best news is that this year most weeks have seen prices over that 1500 cent mark.”

Lon­greach and Charleville were among the wealth­i­est dis­tricts in Aus­tralia in the 1950s as the Korean War helped push wool prices to record highs and the golden fleece was sell­ing at “a pound for a pound”.

But de­clin­ing prices com­bined with the rise of syn­thetic fi­bres sent wool into a death spi­ral, cul­mi­nat­ing in the Fe­bru­ary 1991 crash of the Aus­tralia Wool Cor­po­ra­tion’s Re­serve Price Scheme.

Lon­greach sheep gra­zier Dominic Bur­den and wife Vicki are cau­tiously op­ti­mistic about the in­dus­try, hang­ing on to their herd in on­go­ing drought con­di­tion by seek­ing off -farm em­ploy­ment.

“There is no doubt there is good news about for the wool in­dus­try,’’ Mr Bur­den said. “But the good news we want out here is news that it is go­ing to rain.’’

SHEAR DE­LIGHT: Gra­zier Dominic Bur­den on his prop­erty west of Lon­greach. Pic­ture: Lachie Mil­lard

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