Wool industry proposal for digital selling portal gets guarded support

Change: A proposed digital wool selling platform would shake up the open cry auction system, pictured, the current principal selling method.
Change: A proposed digital wool selling platform would shake up the open cry auction system, pictured, the current principal selling method.

A wool industry proposal to establish a digital wool exchange platform to sell wool has received guarded support from south-west wool growers and exporters.

Australian Council of Wool Exporters president Chris Kelly, formerly of Macarthur, said while he believed the proposal was being driven by only a limited number of growers, he believed it should be explored.

Mr Kelly, a director of Australian Merino Exports that buys a lot of wool from western Victoria, said he had not heard much call for the move by the wool producers his company dealt with.

However his council was supportive of the concept because “anything that adds benefit to the industry cannot be ignored,” Mr Kelly said.

But Mr Kelly said that for any digital selling platform developed by the industry to be successful, it would need to be “better than what we have at the moment” and offer producers the opportunity of getting maximum prices.

If the digital platform could not deliver on those criteria, the council’s support would be doubtful, Mr Kelly said.

Winslow merino wool producer Brendan Finnigan said while he had not looked closely into the proposal by an Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) working group, he supported any move that would broaden the market for wool.

But Mr Finnigan said AWI was a poorly run organisation and might not be the right body to operate the digital wool selling platform.

He said he knew most of the buyers for his merino wool and they wanted to see the wool before they bought it.

He expected a digital selling platform could be developed that would still give buyers an opportunity to see the wool before they bid for it.

Fellow merino wool producer David Rowbottom of St Helens, near Port Fairy, said he had sold his finer micron wools online on occasions when the open cry auction system had not yielded acceptable bids.

“At times (selling) online works well,” Mr Rowbottom said.

He said it was difficult to get a viable price in the auction system for much of his finer wools, from 11-13 microns, and he sold most of those wools by private negotiation. However he said an industry digital selling platform was “worth trying.”

The AWI Wool Exchange Portal working group has called on the AWI board to build the digital selling platform, saying it could provide $38 million in industry benefits over the first 15 years of its operation. The working group was led by Will Wilson and included representatives of woolgrowers, exporters and selling agents.