Drought continues to impact Australian wool production

The Australian Wool Production Forecasting Committee forecasts that Australian shorn wool production for 2018/19 will reach 298 mkg greasy. This is a 12.6% decline from the levels in 2017/18 and reflects the continuing drought conditions across large parts of the Australia.

  • The Australian Wool Production Forecasting Committee forecasts that Australian shorn wool production for 2018/19 will reach 298 mkg greasy. This is a 12.6% decline from the levels in 2017/18 and reflects the continuing drought conditions across large parts of the Australia.
  • The Committee’s first forecast for 2019/20 is for shorn wool production to be 285 mkg greasy, a further fall of 4.5%, due to a further reduction in the number of sheep shorn. This early forecast assumes normal seasonal conditions in 2019/20.

The Australian Wool Production Forecasting Committee (AWPFC) has revised its forecast of shorn wool production for the 2018/19 season to 298 million kilograms greasy, a 12.6% decline on the 2017/18 season and lower than its forecast at its November 2018 meeting.

Committee Chairman, Russell Pattinson said ongoing drought conditions across large parts of Australia has further decreased Australian wool production.

“Adult sheep numbers continued to decline during the 2018/19 season. To the end of January 2019, there has been 25 per cent increase in the adult sheep slaughter numbers compared with the same period a year earlier,” Mr Pattinson said.

“Along with a reduction in greasy wool production there has also been significant changes in key test parameters, a further reflection of ongoing dry conditions.

“Average yield, which currently stands at 63.8 per cent is at its lowest level in eight seasons while the mean fibre diameter of the national clip is 0.5 microns finer than at the same time last season. There have also been considerable reductions in staple length, staple strength and vegetable matter.”

The Committee noted that welcome rain has fallen across many key wool producing areas around the country during the last week of March, but recognised follow-up falls will be necessary. Wool producers recognise the value of their breeding ewes and are intending to hold numbers where possible.

The AWPFC’s first forecast of shorn wool production for the coming 2019/20 season is for production to be 285 mkg greasy, a 4.7 per cent decline on the 2018/19 forecast. This forecast is made using the assumption of normal seasonal conditions returning.

The Committee acknowledges that the impact of the drought will continue into the new season due to reported low scanning and lambing percentages in 2018/19. The Committee noted that for the 2018/19 season to March, the AWTA test data showed a significant increase in the weight of wool tested of 17.5 microns and finer, as well as a decline in the volume of 18.6 to 24.5 microns wool and 26.6 and broader.

Table 1: Summary of wool production estimates and forecasts for Australia

Parameter 2017/18

Final

Estimate

2018/19

Final

Estimate

Change

y-o-y

(%)

2019/20

Second Forecast

Change

y-o-y

(%)

Sheep numbers shorn (million head) 76.8 71.2 – 7.3% 67.8 – 4.5%
Average cut per head (kg/head) 4.45 4.19 – 5.8% 4.19 0.0%
Shorn wool production

(mkg greasy)

341 298 +12.6% 285 +1.4%

Note: Totals may not add due to rounding.

Table 2: Total shorn wool production by state – 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19

mkg greasy NSW VIC WA SA TAS QLD NATIONAL
2016/17 Final Estimate (mkg) 126.0 67.4 71.1 57.9 9.2 8.5 340.2
2017/18 Final Estimate (mkg) 125.7 73.5 65.1 59.5 9.3 8.5 341.3
Change y-o-y % -0.3% +8.9% -8.5% +2.7% +1.5% -3.0% +0.3%
2018/19 Third Forecast (mkg) 100.0 68.7 60.4 53.0 9.0 7.4 285.0
Change y-o-y % -20.4% -6.5% -7.2% -10.9% -4.2% -11.3% -4.7%

Note: Totals may not add due to rounding.

The National Committee drew on advice from the six State Committees, each of which includes growers, brokers, private treaty merchants, representatives from State Departments of Agriculture and the Australian Wool Testing Authority. Data and input was drawn from AWEX, wool exporters, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABARES, and Meat and Livestock Australia.

The state and national Committees will next meet in mid-August 2019.

The full forecast report will be available on the AWI website at www.wool.com/forecasts from Friday 12 April 2019.

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