COMMENT: Will the wool industry adopt the Ernst & Young recommendations?

HOW often do you see the saying “get the popcorn” used on social media?

WOOL LEADERSHIP: Wal Merriman of Boorowa is the chairman of Australian Wool Innovation (AWI). The board is being encouraged to modernise.

WOOL LEADERSHIP: Wal Merriman of Boorowa is the chairman of Australian Wool Innovation (AWI). The board is being encouraged to modernise.

It’s a great way to enthrall the audience with a post about impending doom, gossip or a friendly dispute.

This saying certainly applies to Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) and the recent string of troubles which resulted in the Ernst & Young inquiry.

This was a scandal that had everything, including alleged double-sided mirrors, which have left a stain across the industry and its leaders. Now growers and members of the primary industry sector will watch and see if the recommendations from the 500-page Ernst & Young inquiry are adopted. 

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud launched the review, however, he hasn’t indicated whether or not AWI could be “forced” by government to adopt the recommendations.

Unfortunately this blight on the leadership of the wool industry has made headlines in the city press as well as plenty of analytical stories in the bush. 

But what has it done to the image of wool? The very fibre AWI is charged with promoting. 

Despite all of the industry muck-raking at the highest level wool prices are at an all-time historic high. And the industry is in good shape when it comes to marketing.

Woolen thermals carrying the landmark logo can be found in stores from the top end to the bottom – including thermals made from 16.5-micron wool at Aldi for less than $30. What this shows is the fibre is accessible. It can be washed, worn, sweated in and generally treated just like any of the competing fibres on the market. 

This accessibility and overall demand for what should be king of the fibres is flowing into the auction system and as a result the prices are high.

But what the industry needs is leadership. And good leadership. Mr Littleproud has stated the aim of the review was to assess the performance of AWI.

“The review will look at AWI’s delivery of its core objectives, such as research, development, extension and marketing services to woolgrowers, as well as additional matters of public interest,” he said. 

The process was open to 42,000 levy-paying wool growers. All we can do now is wait and see if the 82 recommendations will be adopted.