Woolgrowers hold onto clip as trade eases

Woolgrowers hold onto clip as trade eases

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CONUNDRUM: Wool grower Jamie Baulch, Hillview, Cavendish, has decided to hold onto wool as the export market grinds to a halt.

CONUNDRUM: Wool grower Jamie Baulch, Hillview, Cavendish, has decided to hold onto wool as the export market grinds to a halt.

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Third-generation wool grower Jamie Baulch has stored his March wool.

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Western District woolgrower Jamie Baulch fears the vulnerability of some farming enterprises could force producers to cease operating post-coronavirus.

The Cavendish fine-wool producer runs a self-replacing Merino operation north of Hamilton and sells up to 180 bales to European and Chinese markets annually.

But as mills remain closed across the globe due to the pandemic, the third-generation farmer faces a conundrum many growers have contemplated recently; to sell or not to sell.

Related: Gippsland wool grower sells fibre despite turbulent times

In February, Mr Baulch sold 30 bales of wool clipped from his older ewes and a line of wethers at auction in Melbourne for about 1590 cents a kilogram greasy.

"Even at those rates we were still thinking it was low enough but now it's come back even further," he said.

Fast-forward four months to mid-May and 160 bales shorn from his main flock in March remain at the Lara wool stores yet to be sold.

"Wool is a non-essential item in a sense and people need to have consumable dollars before they start spending money on it," Mr Baulch said.

"When people have altered their focus at a time like this during a pandemic, it's the last thing on their mind."

The Hillview self-replacing flock consists of 7500-8000 sheep and makes up 90 per cent of the operation, along with cropping which provides additional income.

Mr Baulch said he was unsure how long he would hold onto the wool, describing the experience as unsettling.

"At the moment we're okay financially but there will come a time where we will have debts to pay," he said.

"It also emphasises that an enterprise like ours which focuses mainly on one area to a degree is very vulnerable if that market does fall.

"When you have multiple enterprises you're able to spread your risks to a degree but we're fortunate the red meat market has been off the scales, which has helped out a hell of a lot."

Elders district wool manager Andrew Howells, Hamilton, said Western District producers had been blessed with a good autumn and strong meat prices.

He said a lot of cross-bred wool producers across the state had held onto their clip in recent weeks due to the drop in demand by overseas consumers.

Australia exports 98pc of greasy wool produced with 79pc bought by China.

"There's a big emphasis on high-yielding wool so anything 65 per cent and better is getting much more competition," he said.

The demand for high quality product is driven by a lot of low-yielding wool from drought-affected regions hitting the market.

"The main thing is to not offer too much wool ... because all wool is going into stock in some form whether it be in top, yarn, fabric or garments and that's because it's not being bought at the other end," Mr Howells said.

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