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2023 in Review - WoolProducers GM


Heading towards the end of the year is not only a time to stop and spend time with friends and family, it’s an important time to reflect on the year that was, celebrate the achievements and reflect on the lessons learnt. Below you’ll read about some of the highlights from the past 12 months.


2023 presented a great number of issues for Australian wool growers, both opportunities and challenges. The work of WoolProducers continues to span and almost unimaginable number of areas, 2023 has seen much of my time spent on issues relating to industry leadership, sheep health, welfare and biosecurity and trade.


Throughout the year I have participated in a number of cross-industry leadership roles. The first of these being the interim chair of the Animal Health Australia Industry Forum (IF) prior to returning to an IF executive role in the middle of the year. The IF allows AHA industry members to discuss issues relating to animal health and welfare and identify opportunities to undertake collaborative projects and / or advocacy for the benefit of then broader IF group.


In my capacity as interim IF chair, I had the opportunity to attended the 90th General Session of WOAH in Paris from 21-25 May at the invitation of Dr Mark Schipp, former Australian Chief Veterinary Officer. Side meetings at WOAH allowed me to present the IWTO biosecurity framework (see below) to the WOAH Public – Private Partnerships Programme. The framework, of which the development was led by WoolProducers, was commended as an example for other industries to apply to support global animal health and biosecurity.


In addition to IF, I was also a member of the Animalplan steering committee. Animalplan is Australia’s first national action plan for production animal health. The plan consolidates themes from over 30 existing strategies, action plans and frameworks to enhance Australia’s animal health system by bringing together like-minded stakeholders and catalysing projects inline with the plans 7 objectives.


Biosecurity remains a risk to our industry, including the risk of an incursion of an Emergency Animal Disease, such as Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), which remains present in our near neighbours. This year saw the finalisation of a WoolProducers led project within the International Wool Textile Organisation that developed a framework for the storage of wool to inactivate disease causing agents for diseases such as FMD. The project was undertaken with strong collaboration from both AWI and colleagues in counterpart wool growing countries including South Africa, New Zealand, United States and Uruguay. The framework was y endorsed by the IWTO Biosecurity and Trade working group at the annual congress in Kyoto. Having such a framework in place will provide greater opportunities and options for a “return to market” during, or following an EAD incursion into Australia.


The year also saw the much awaited completion of the review of the Wool Enterprise AUSVETPLAN manual. The manual provides guidance to the wool industry and state governments on how the wool industry operates and highlights key considerations and steps in relation to the management of an EAD incursion. I would like to sincerely thank David Mitchell of AWH, Scott Williams and Peter Morgan from ACWEP and the various collaborators from the NSW and Victorian governments who contributed to the review process. Following the formal approval process in 2024 our industry will be much better placed to respond to an EAD incursion.


Animal welfare remains a substantial issue for all livestock industries, the wool industry is no exception to this rule. In the age of social media, where many consumers will make decisions based on social media posts from an ill-informed influencers, it is essential that we continue to invest in best practice animal welfare within our production systems and ensure that we tell our story in order to remain a purchasing choice for many of our potential customers. We also need to listen to and adapt to changing consumer needs, in doing this we need to accept that we will have to do some things differently to how we have in the past.


In this capacity WoolProducers have maintained engagement in multiple working groups and committees to ensure that animal welfare and policy and research aligns with the WoolProducers policy document. Such engagements include participation in the AWI Sheep Welfare Forum, briefings to the Animal Welfare Task Group, regular meetings with RSPCA and ongoing engagement with DFAT and DAFF departmental staff and relevant ministerial staff.


WoolProducers has advocated for enhanced availability and grower access to a number of pain relief products over the past 12 months. These include supporting the rescheduling of Numnuts and Buccalgesic (Butec) and supporting the registration of a forthcoming Virbac meloxicam + clostridial vaccine as a Schedule 6 product.


To support increasing availability of pain relief products for lamb marking, WoolProducers instigated and made a substantial contribution towards the development of the Pain Relief Decision Support for Lamb Marking guide.


WoolProducers was the only industry body to support the registration of Flexolt, a world first oral lousicide product


Wool trade policy and project work has also been a major focus for WoolProducers throughout 2023. The year saw the successful delivery of the Phase 1 ATMAC project (domestic and diversified early-stage processing to mitigate trade risk) and commencement of Phase 2. Phase 1 identified potential trade risk mitigation valued at up to $1.1 billion through increased domestic processing and / or processing in diversified markets. The Phase 2 work is seeking to develop a business case for domestic early-stage processing and roadmaps for the expansion of early-stage processing to / within the priority markets of Bangladesh, India and Vietnam.


2023 also saw WoolPorducers partner with Australian Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam in their AusHub programme. The AusHub programme saw WoolProducers secured Mr Kelvin Le as a Ho Chi Minh City based representative for the Australian wool industry. Kelvin worked to support the ATMAC Phase 2 work in Vietnam for the first 6 months of his contract. For the rest of his time he has focused on implementing the recommendations of the ATMAC Phase 2 roadmap for Vietnam and strengthening commercial linkages between the Australian wool sector and the Vietnamese textile sector. I have recently returned from a trip to Vietnam in which I was able to work with Kelvin to meet with key industry stakeholders and present at an industry conference.


2024 is shaping up to be a busy year with any opportunities ahead of us, particularly the opportunity for the global wool supply chain coming to Australia for the International Wool Textile Organisation Congress in Adelaide in April.


I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jo, Steve, Stacey, Simon and the board for their ongoing support and encouragement throughout the past 12 months.


I wish you and your families a safe and happy Christmas and look forward to working on your behalf throughout 2024.


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