Australia's wool growing fraternity has set a target to grow the value of its sector by 2.5 per cent per annum - up to at least the year 2030 - and better promote the fibre's sustainability credentials.
A key driver to achieving this will be arresting and turning around the decline of the national flock and boosting Merino ewe numbers to about 70 per cent of total sheep on the ground.
It will also require a 15pc increase in sheep and wool values, and growing the national flock from about 64 million to 75 million head.
These are key targets of the industry's Wool 2030 Strategy, which was released in late 2020.
Plans in place
The strategy is the first to be compiled specifically by and for woolgrowers, with their input, in consultation with players right through the wool value chain to the end customer.
It covers issues of wool supply and demand; flock demographics and productivity; social licence; opportunities and threats; and people in the industry.
Scott Williams, of Forest Hill Consulting, who facilitated the plan's development with consultant Russell Pattinson, outlined the main findings that now underpin the Wool 2030 Strategy at this year's International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO) Congress.
He said it aligned with AWI's three-year strategic plans, and had been initially recommended in a 2018 review of AWI by Ernst and Young.
Sharing the message
AWI's Woolgrower Consultation Group (WCG) now oversees the roll-out of the Wool 2030 Strategy, which also had input from at least 800 woolgrowers through an online survey and from a wide-range of supply chain stakeholders.
The WCG consists of 29 wool industry and government groups and each brought a younger generation representative to the table for strategic discussions.
Mr Williams said from this extensive consultation, the overarching theme to emerge was the importance of sustainability right through the wool value chain.
"This plan sends a strong signal to the global wool industry - and its markets - that Australia's wool producing sector is clearly focused on meeting the needs and expectations of its customers," Mr Williams said.
"It shines a light on wool as a sustainable and ethically-produced and delivered fibre - and recognises industry needs to better promote this."
- Meeting wool market expectations
- Evaluating and promoting the wool industry's sustainability credentials
Mr Williams said leading up to 2030, the Australian wool industry would use the strategy to focus on several major pillars.
He said these included improving: care for animals and the environment; marketing the world's most desirable fibre; communication with customers; transformation of production systems through innovation; and prosperity of woolgrowing.
"Ensuring whole-of-pipeline profitability is also vital to attract investment to the industry," Mr Williams said.
"This starts on-farm and continues into new wool product and processing innovations.
"Australia has a long-held reputation of supplying the world with premium wools, and this needs to be maintained and capitalised on.
"The industry sees opportunities stemming from better communication with users and customers, targeted promotional efforts and meeting consumer expectations.
"We all want wool to be one of most trusted agricultural industries, renowned for its stewardship of animals, people and the environment and recognised for its comfort, health, animal welfare and environmental attributes.
"Our wool needs to be recognised internationally for these key sustainability standards, underpinned by rigorous certification."
Buyers need to be able to readily access the wool they need, and growers need to use a range of marketing options and risk management tools as we head towards clearer production and pricing signals for all.
Mr Williams said part of this was finding new ways to manage flystrike, and other animal health risks, and striving for carbon neutrality in wool production, processing and delivery.
"We also want to maintain the reputation of Woolmark, ensure access to markets and - in the shorter term - create a clear post-COVID-19 recovery plan," he said.
"In the next decade, there should be seemless data sharing and more open price signals through the value chain.
"Buyers need to be able to readily access the wool they need, and growers need to use a range of marketing options and risk management tools as we head towards clearer production and pricing signals for all."
What lies ahead
Mr Williams said future wool production systems would integrate technologies and innovations to improve management, data capture and data use.
"This will re-position growers as efficient and skilled business operators, and help to attract young people to the wool industry," he said.
"It will be a dynamic and technically-enabled industry that uses latest advances in sheep genetic selection and improvement, distribution systems and measures to address climate change."
- More information: www.wool.com/about-awi/media-resources/news/wool-2030-strategy/