Shorn wool production increases due to improved season

  • The Australian Wool Production Forecasting Committee’s fourth forecast of shorn wool production in 2020/21 is 290 mkg greasy. This is a 2.1% increase on the 284 mkg estimate for 2019/20 as key wool growing regions experience favourable seasonal conditions.
  • The Committee’s first forecast for 2021/22 is for shorn wool production to be 305 mkg greasy, an increase of 5.1% compared with the current season. The current favourable seasonal conditions for wool production are expected to extend into the new season boosting average cut per head. However, low sheep numbers will continue to limit shorn wool production in the short term.
  • The Australian Wool Production Forecasting Committee (AWPFC) has updated its forecast of shorn wool production for the 2020/21 season. This fourth forecast is for production to be 290 million kilograms (mkg) greasy, a 2.1% increase on the estimate of 284 mkg greasy in 2019/20 (Table 1).

    Most wool growing regions are experiencing a favourable season and sheep are in good condition. Western Australia, the pastoral region of South Australia and Queensland have reaped the benefit of recent widespread, albeit patchy, rainfall which has replenished on-farm water stocks.

    Committee Chairman, Russell Pattinson noted that “on the back of good seasonal conditions, wool producers intend to re-build their ewe numbers in many key wool producing regions by retaining more replacement and older ewes than normal”.

    The number of sheep shorn in Australia during 2020/21 is forecast to fall by 4.5% to 65.5 million. Sheep shorn numbers will decrease in Western Australia (down 14.3%), Queensland (down 14.2%), New South Wales (down 5.4%) and South Australia (down 1.7%) but are expected to increase in Victoria and Tasmania (up 3.1% and 2.8% respectively). Significant numbers of breeding ewes have continued to be transferred interstate from Western Australia.

    The average wool cut per head is forecast to increase by 7.2% nationally to 4.43 kg greasy for the 2020/21 season. Favourable conditions in many wool growing regions are driving the increase in cut per head. Sheep are reported to be in good condition and are expected to remain that way through to winter. AWTA key test data show a significant increase in staple length to 89.0 mm, up 2.9 mm compared with the July to March 2020 period. However, some of the increase in staple length can be attributed to delayed shearing. There has also been an increase in mean fibre diameter to 20.8 µm, up 0.2 µm, and staple strength up 1.5 N/ktex to 33.8 N/ktex.

    Shorn wool production is forecast to fall in both Queensland (down 12.8%) and Western Australia (down 11.3%) as these two states continued to experience relatively dry conditions. However recent welcome rainfall from tropical cyclones has improved on-farm water availability and will improve the quantity of available paddock feed in both these states. Shorn wool production in all other states is forecast to increase, Tasmania (up 20.0%), Victoria (up 8.2%), South Australia (up 6.0%) and New South Wales (up 4.3%).

    AWTA wool test volumes to the end of March 2021 were down by 0.9% year-on-year, however, there has been a sharp increase in AWTA wool testing volumes from February to April. First-hand offered wool at auction to the end of week 44 was up 12.1%. The increase is partly due to the upward movement in wool prices evident in recent months as producers liquidate wool stocks.

    The AWPFC’s first forecast of shorn wool production for the 2021/22 season is 305 mkg greasy, a 5.1% increase on the 2020/21 forecast because of modest increases in the number of sheep shorn (up 3.7%) and average cut per head (up 1.4%). The Committee expects that the current low sheep numbers will restrict larger increases in shorn wool production in the short term despite the favourable seasonal conditions across many wool producing regions of the country.

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

    Parameter

    2019/20

    Final

    Estimate

    2020/21

    Fourth

    Forecast

    Change

    y-o-y

    (%)

    2021/22

    First

    Forecast

    Change

    y-o-y

    (%)

    Sheep numbers shorn (million head)

    68.6

    65.5

    -4.5%

    67.9

    3.7%

    Average cut per head (kg/head)

    4.13

    4.40

    7.3%

    4.49

    1.4%

    Shorn wool production

    (mkg greasy)

    284

    290

    2.1%

    305

    5.1%

    Note: Totals may not add due to rounding.

    Table 2: Total shorn wool production by state – 2018/19, 2019/20 and 2020/21

    mkg greasy

    NSW

    VIC

    WA

    SA

    TAS

    QLD

    NATIONAL

    2018/19 Final Estimate (mkg)

    99.1

    66.9

    62.2

    54.3

    9.0

    8.1

    300

    2019/20 Final Estimate (mkg)

    94.3

    63.2

    59.8

    50.0

    9.0

    7.5

    284

    Change y-o-y %

    -4.8%

    -5.5%

    -3.9%

    -8.1%

    0.2%

    -8.3%

    -5.3%

    2020/21 Fourth Forecast (mkg)

    98.3

    68.4

    53.0

    53.0

    10.8

    6.5

    290

    Change y-o-y %

    4.2%

    8.2%

    -11.4%

    6.0%

    20.0%

    -13.3%

    2.1%

    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, sheep pregnancy scanners, representatives from State Departments of Agriculture and from the Australian Wool Testing Authority. Data and input were also 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 2021.

    The full forecast report will be available on the AWI website at www.wool.com/forecasts from 12th May 2021.

    Released by:

    Kevin Wilde

    Australian Wool Innovation, Media Relations Manager

    M: +61 436 031 277

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