March saw CEO, Jo Hall and myself travel to India as part of an Australian delegation to attend the inaugural Joint India Australia Wool Working Group (JIAWWG). The group has been initiated to foster relations with the Australian and Indian trade in an effort to gain market expansion into this growing economy.
The recent ratification of the Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) has seen a renewed focus on bilateral relations between our two counties, so the timing of this trip was very opportune. India has a population of around 1.4 billion people and an emerging middle class, to put that into some sort of context, we learnt that one million people turn 18 in India every month.
India is already a significant global importance for wool and is the second largest single-country buyer of Australian wool, currently taking around 6% of our clip. Future growth in the Indian economy is expected to remain strong, along with expected long term steady growth in India’s textile sector, presenting a significant opportunity for Australian wool.
The JIAWWG meeting saw presentations from both the Australian and Indian delegations on the current state of play on both sides, including challenges and opportunities, this was followed by discussions on areas for mutually beneficial collaboration, including workforce development, early-stage processing and opportunities to enhance trade. India was very keen to hear about sustainability initiatives, which was a good opportunity to showcase the Sheep Sustainability Framework.
We very much see this as the start of building this relationship and India have indicated a keenness to send a delegation to Australia in the near future, which will follow another virtual meeting of the group in the coming months.
Part of the trip also included attendance to the India Fashion Tex, which was hosted by the Indian Wool & Woollens Export Promotion Council and the Powerloom Development and Export Promotion Council and was a three day global Buyer/Seller meet. This provided an opportunity to meet with participants of the Indian textile sector, many who are already using Australian wool. The trade fare showcased many woollen products including apparel, knitwear and homewares as well as attendance to the fashion parade. We were able to promote the Trust in Australian Wool campaign, through distribution of the booklet in both Hindi and English, which was very well received.
The Australian delegation, alongside WoolProducers, also comprised of representatives from AWTA, the Australian Council of Wool Exporters and Processors and the Woolmark Company, and we also took the opportunity to meet with the Australian High Commissioner to India, Barry O’Farrell at the High Commission to discuss wool specific issues and opportunities.
Overall we view this as an extremely positive trip and we look forward to working with, and strengthening ties with our Indian counterparts in the coming years for the betterment of our industry, and particularly our growers.