An important new research effort to strengthen Western Australian wool fibre will commence this year, with the aim of boosting wool sales and improving prospects for local wool processing.
Agriculture Minister Ernie Bridge said the Department of Agriculture, together with researchers from the CSIRO and the University of WA, would focus on the problem of weak wool fibre as part of their work at the new co-operative research centre for premium quality wool.
The establishment of the centre and Commonwealth funding for it was announced by the Federal Government last month, and Mr Bridge said the State Government would provide more than $300,000 to the centre's research programs over the next three years.
This was in addition to the State Government's ongoing research commitment to improve the quality of WA wool.
Weak wool fibre, known as tender wool, is a widely recognised problem associated with WA wool.
Thirty-six per cent of all wool collected last season was classified as tender, costing WA wool growers more than $25 million. The problem cost the Australian wool industry $90 million last year.
"If research to overcome this problem is successful, it will not only put more money into wool growers' pockets, but also assist in the establishment of a significant wool processing industry in WA," the Minister said.
"Some international wool processors will not use WA wool on its own due to its poor processing performance, and the lack of suitable wool types is also hindering the development of a wool processing industry here."
With less than 20 per cent of WA wool processed beyond the greasy stage before it leaves the State, Mr Bridge said any progress in overcoming the problem would bring real benefits to the wool industry.
Department of Agriculture research scientist Dr Rob Kelly will lead the program, which begins in July.
Mr Bridge said other programs being undertaken by the new Cooperative Research Centre included genetic technologies to improve wool and fabric quality, and research to improve fibre structure and follicle function.
Agencies involved include the CSIRO, the universities of WA, New South Wales, and New England, and industry organisations such as Merinotech, the Wool Foundation, Cranmore Marketing Group, Stud Merino Breeders' Association of WA, and Australian Wool Processors.