Industry experts will be watching the first wool sales after the winter recess with interest, fully expecting it will remain volatile due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nutrien Wool South East Australia region manager Stephen Keys said there was solid demand for the final two sales before the recess, but COVID-19 was continuing to cause disruptions to global supply chains and undermining consumer confidence.

“We’re hopeful the market continues to find some stability as it reopens but the pandemic has impacted economies worldwide, decreasing the demand for apparel and other wool products,” Mr Keys said.

“The recovery will depend on when consumer confidence begins to return.”

He said everyone at Melbourne’s wool selling centre, in the western suburb of Brooklyn, was complying with government advice to control COVID-19.

Only essential staff are permitted to enter the centre, auctions are being conducted under social distancing protocols, and everyone is wearing masks.

Those working out of the Sydney selling centre are also watching what’s happening in Melbourne closely, and is also taking steps to minimise risks.

“In my 40 years in the wool industry, I haven’t seen anything like this,” Mr Keys said.

“But the industry is resilient, so we will adapt, work with our clients, both growers and exporters, and get through this.

“Our business has been committed to Australian wool growers for more than 160 years and we know that this too will pass.

“We’ve seen market downturns and recoveries, and it will happen again.

“Our only job in the wool supply chain – and our number one priority – is to represent the grower.

“We don’t hold equity positions in downstream manufacturing or brands.”

He said the Nutrien team was drawing on years of experience to support clients – providing market insights that helped them answer the hard questions, with advice on products to improve their pasture, livestock genetics, labour efficiency and finance.

David Hart manages Nutrien Wool in the north-east of the country, including most of NSW and Queensland.

Mr Hart said the low wool prices had hit growers in this region particularly hard as many are still recovering from drought.

“Drought decimated sheep numbers and it decimated bank balances,” he said.

He said a much improved season would hopefully lead to good lambing in the spring.

He was also encouraged by wild dog exclusion fencing being built in parts of Queensland.

“There are sheep going back into areas where we haven’t had sheep for 20 or 30 years,” he said.

Mr Keys said the focus of the wool team in the past few months had been working with clients to help them decide how best to market their wool in these difficult times.