RIDING ON THE SHEEP’S BACK
Global wool demand skyrocketing
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