Charles “Chick” Olsson is a NSW woolgrower and former Austraian Wool Innovation director who now represents the Australian Woolgrowers Association on the independent panel overseeing Woolpoll 2012.
WOOLGROWERS must decide how much they are prepared to invest in securing the future of the wool industry when the vote in WoolPoll 2012 (voting closes Friday, November 2).
Wool levies will be vital to securing the new markets the industry needs to weather falling prices and stiff competition from other fibres over the next three years.
But if we, as woolgrowers, don’t fund the wool research and marketing needed to establish those markets, no one else will.
This poll will decide whether the current levy rate of two per cent of wool sales should remain the same, be increased, decreased or reduced to zero for the next three years.
At stake is $40 million dollars a year of industry funds spent by Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) on research and development, on and off farm, and marketing.
The model we have might not be perfect, but there is no other model available to woolgrowers. If we want wool research and marketing, this is the only method we have of getting it.
We’ve got some momentum going. We need to give them another three years.
It’s going to be a difficult time over the next few years. Wool prices have fallen by 30-40 per cent in the past few months. Man-made fibres have flogged us because they are easier to process and cheaper and there is a massive over supply of cotton at half the price of wool.
We can’t rely on China to take up the slack. The only hope is to find new markets.
Europe and North America are the coalface where the decisions that dictate demand are made and we have to get in there and get in there early.
Growers want to see wool going into lucrative, highly profitable areas. It is a great product, it breathes, it is natural, and it is renewable and sustainable.
We need to build on those strengths and focus on getting wool positioned where it is a natural fit.
It can be done. Look at the success of programs like the HRH Campaign for Wool launched by the Prince of Wales that had 500,000 YouTube hits on the first day.
We need to build on that success and the work already done by AWI on developing performance wool for sportswear and identifying new segments like mothers and babies.
This is a decision that impacts on all woolgrowers whether they produce fine or stronger wools, have wool as a primary or secondary enterprise.
It is important that it is a decision made by the whole industry not a minority and that as many woolgrowers as possible vote.
It’s your income, your business and your future. Make sure you participate.