Cyber attack halts wool sales across with Central West farmers, buyers, brokers suffering

BONE DRY: Geoff Rayner, owner of Pomanara Merino Stud near Bathurst, was thankful he wasn't caught up by the auctions being cancelled. Photo: ROBYN RAYNER 061118drought5
BONE DRY: Geoff Rayner, owner of Pomanara Merino Stud near Bathurst, was thankful he wasn't caught up by the auctions being cancelled. Photo: ROBYN RAYNER 061118drought5

IN another blow to drought affected graziers across the region, the wool industry has come to a standstill this week following a cyber attack.

All wool auctions across the country were cancelled after the industry's main software supplier, Talman, fell victim to ransomware.

The attack meant data could not be accessed by farmers, buyers and auctioneers.

Bryton Wool, which operates in Canowindra, Forbes, Young and Crookwell, is among those impacted with wool buyer and broker David Walsh confirming it had caused a huge disruption.

He was advised about the attack on Monday and he said "it's caused a lot of grief".

"We're in the middle of a drought and farmers didn't need this delay in funds coming in," he said.

I haven't been able to weigh and pay for wool that's come in. I've had to say 'I can't do it'.

Bryton Wool buyer and broker David Walsh

"I haven't been able to weigh and pay for wool that's come in. I've had to say 'I can't do it'.

"The shed is full and people need their money."

Mr Walsh said while Talman is working to get the system back up and running in time for next week's sales, that there should have been a back-up system.

"We're out until Sunday night when the whole system will reboot. At the moment, I can't do anything. I haven't opened this morning," he said.

Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) trade consultant Scott Carmody said wool growers were already suffering with lower wool quality and quantities due the drought.

He also fears that with a glut of wool expected to hit the markets once the software is up and running, that this could lead to lower prices for growers.

"Normally it will dampen the enthusiasm from wool buyers and the price they're prepared to pay," he said.

"We're hoping orders from China, India, Italy and the Czech Republic will support the market in full."

Mr Carmody said the industry was hopeful that sales would be back on next week so that farmers could get paid.

"We'll probably try to sell that three days [rather than two] so the wool growers can get paid," he said.

Mr Carmody said this was the first software outage in 25 years that has impacted Australia's wool industry.

Growers cash reserves are low, having endured years of drought and the associated high feed costs.

NSW Farmers wool committee chair Andrew Wood

NSW Farmers wool committee chair Andrew Wood said the situation had left some wool growers at risk of not meeting their short-term loan repayments.

"Growers cash reserves are low, having endured years of drought and the associated high feed costs," he said.

"Some growers have needed to access short term interest free finance to cover shearing costs until their wool cheque comes through."

Bathurst merino graziers Geoff and Robyn Rayner said they were thankful that they did not have any wool going to sale this week.

"It is a very big concern. It's a wake up call for the industry that the system they're using isn't secure enough," Mr Rayner said.

More than 75 per cent of the wool industry in Australia and NZ uses Talman software for tasks such as collation of test data, sale cataloguing and valuations.

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This story Farmers missing out as cyber attack brings wool industry to a halt first appeared on Daily Liberal.