Fly­ing high with ru­ral me­dia award win

Countryman - - FRONT PAGE - Bob Gar­nant

With wool pro­duc­ers across the State se­cur­ing record prices this Au­gust, Coun­try­man re­porter Bob Gar­nant saw fit to cap­ture the essence of a Wil­liams shear­ing shed in full hus­tle. Last week, his pic­ture of shear­ing con­trac­tor Stephen Cowcher proved too good to be ig­nored.

Aus­tralian wool­grow­ers stood and ap­plauded Aus­tralian Wool In­no­va­tion, but an­tic­i­pated wool price swings caused con­cern at the wool body’s an­nual meet­ing last week in Syd­ney.

Re­cently re­turned from an over­seas trip, AWI chief ex­ec­u­tive Stu­art McCul­lough said the US-China trade war had im­pli­ca­tions for Aus­tralia.

“I have con­cerns it will be a fickle pe­riod of peaks and troughs, via share­mar­ket swings and the high cost of wool,” he told at­ten­dees.

With Aus­tralia’s pre­dicted 10.8 per cent drop in wool sup­ply for 2018-19, as a re­sult of droughtaf­fected ar­eas, cou­pled with a re­duced AWI wool­grower levy per­cent­age be­gin­ning in July, Mr McCul­lough and newly ap­pointed chair­woman Co­lette Garnsey were in dam­age con­trol.

“Un­der the new pre­dicted an­nual bud­get, wool vol­ume would drop to 305 mil­lion tonnes and on an av­er­age price of $17.50/kg, levy rev­enue is ex­pected to be $51.640 mil­lion, down by $18.2 mil­lion, but we can draw down on re­serves,” Mr McCul­lough said.

He also re­vealed the levy op­tion re­sults State-by-State, which had WA lead­ing for change with its high­est vot­ing per­cent­age of 56 per cent for 1.5 per cent, and 14 per cent for 0 per cent op­tions.

“We are con­tact­ing our wool busi­ness part­ners to as­sure them of AWI’s con­tin­ued com­mit­ments to the in­dus­try,” he said.

Ms Garnsey spoke of the chal­lenges of fill­ing her pre­de­ces­sor’s “for­mi­da­ble shoes”, but vowed un­der “the right-time for a lead­er­ship change” to in­vest wool­grow­ers’ levies ef­fec­tively and ef­fi­ciently through con­sul­ta­tion with all in­dus­try stake­hold­ers.

“The av­er­age East­ern Mar­ket In­di­ca­tor sits at 1895¢/kg, up 25.5¢/ kg on the prior pe­riod,” she said.

Ms Garnsey said the AWI board ac­cepted 75 of the 82 rec­om­men­da­tions un­der the EY Re­view of Per­for­mance, with 33 per cent of those al­ready im­ple­mented.

“The re­main­ing are a mat­ter of share­hold­ers’ ap­proval,” she said, re­fer­ring to a pro­posed ex­traor­di­nary meet­ing next year in March.

“In the mean­time, AWI will have a wide con­sul­ta­tion in or­der to set up the vot­ing pa­ram­e­ters and make a rec­om­men­da­tion.”

AWI’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mar­ket­ing man­ager Laura Arm­strong re­vealed AWI’s so­cial me­dia in­vest­ment re­sponses were “well above the bench­mark stan­dard”, re­turn­ing $56 mil­lion in ed­i­to­rial value.

“AWI’s mil­len­nium ap­peal cam­paigns have 23 sec­onds to cap­ture at­ten­tion,” she said.

Mr McCul­lough said the 2020 to 2023 re­search and de­vel­op­ment bud­get was for a pro­posed $14 mil­lion an­nual sheep pro­duc­tion spend, down from the cur­rent $18 mil­lion in 2019-20.

He said in­vest­ments were geared to­wards robotic shear­ing, elec­tronic sheep tags, and a look into aug­mented re­al­ity.

AWI re­search gen­eral man­ager Jane Lit­tle­john added the im­por­tance of fly­strike re­search, with 30 per cent of the Aus­tralian clip be­ing non-mulesed, while 83 per cent of wool­grow­ers who mulesed were us­ing pain re­lief.

She said other on­go­ing pro­jects in­cluded wild dogs and the ben­e­fits of next-to-skin woollen wear, plus added pas­ture re­search.

Wool Q pro­ject spon­sor Will Wil­son gave an up­date on AWI’s se­cure on­line plat­form, which in­cludes an in­dus­try net­work fo­rum, My WoolQ, and a ready reck­oner.

Mr Wil­son said 1500 wool­grow­ers had joined the free ser­vice, as had 526 busi­nesses.

Wool Q spon­sor Will Wil­son and AWI chief ex­ec­u­tive Stu­art McCul­lough.

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