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Challenges ahead for natural fibres

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Media Release Innovation in Econom ic Research

Canberra ACT 2601 Facsimile (02) 6272 2001

International code 616

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18 March 1999

Challenges ahead for natural fibres

‘Both the wool and cotton industries face a number of challenges in defining their place in the fibre markets of the future’, Dr Terry Sheales, Manager, Industries Branch, ABARE, said in Canberra today.

Speaking at the Fibres session of ABARE’s OUTLOOK 99 conference, Dr Sheales noted that, ‘fibre markets are currently characterised by subdued growth in consumer spending, high levels of fibre availability and strong competition between fibres’.

‘For wool, changing demographics are likely to be increasingly important. The ‘baby boomer’ generation was brought up wearing wool, but that’s not the case now. Baby boomers are declining as a proportion of the total consumer population and, as they retire, they will be spending less’.

Dr Sheales also said, ‘largely because of continuing relatively poor returns from wool, Australian producers are projected to cut sheep numbers to the lowest in over 50 years by early next decade’.

Mr John Michell, Managing Director, GH Michell and Sons, added that ‘producers and processors of natural fibres need to embrace change to remain competitive in the next millenium’.

‘Promotion and product development are the only ways we can generate more demand for wool and bolster prices to sustainable levels’, he said. ‘However, despite the current struggles there is no doubt that there is still a strong future for wool’.

Mr Tony Sherlock, Chairman of the Woolmark Company, discussing the challenges facing the wool industry, said, ‘there is a need for attitudes to change so that we can stimulate consumer demand and remove costs from the wool pipeline. The Woolmark Company is addressing these challenges by linking innovation and promotion, and pursuing strategic

alliances with fashion designers and manufacturers’.

Mr Cliff White, Trading Manager, Queensland Cotton said, ‘in this time of increased consumer awareness we must always appreciate the requirement of the person spending the hard earned dollar’. ‘The bottom line in bringing consumers to cotton is to have a product that is marketable. If we do not produce a quality product then we will not be bringing

anyone to cotton’, he said.

Speakers at the session, ‘Natural fibres: a place in the market’, were: Dr Steve Beare, Deputy Director, ABARE; flf ,

Mr John M ichell, Managing Director, G ti M ichell and Sons; .

Mr Anthony Sherlock, Chairman, Australian W ool Research and Promotion Organisation; and Mr C liff White, Trading Manager, Queensland Cotton.

For further information contact: During the conference, Margaret Day, OUTLOOK Media Centre on (02)6276 5242 or 018 487 825 After the conference, Dr Terry Sheales, ABARE on (02) 6272 2054

ABARE acknowledges the support o f its major O utlook conference partner, Cisco Systems.