Flying high with rural media award win
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.