AUSTRALIA’S shorn wool production dropped by more than 5 percent in 2019-20, but the rate of decline is slowing, according to industry estimates.
The Australian Wool Production Forecasting Committee has estimated Australian shorn wool production for 2019-20 was 283 million kilograms greasy, a 5.5pc decline on the 300 mkg total for 2018/19, reflecting sustained dry and drought conditions across the country last season.
The committee updated its forecast of shorn wool production for the 2020/21 season to 280 mkg, a 1.1pc decline on the 2019-20 estimated production of 283 mkg greasy, but an upward revision from the 276 mkg forecast in April.
The committee said the season has significantly improved over the last few months in many wool growing regions, compared with the previous year or more. This is offset by lower sheep shorn numbers in all states except Victoria and Tasmania and continuing dry to drought conditions in Western Australia, central Queensland and the pastoral region of South Australia.
Drought impact to carry forward despite rainfall
Committee chairman Russell Pattinson said welcome rainfall through much of New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and southern Queensland in recent months stimulated pasture growth and replenished on-farm water supplies.
“This is tempered by persistent dry conditions in much of Western Australia, the pastoral region of South Australia and central Queensland.”
“Despite encouraging rainfall in some areas, the effect of the prolonged drought on wool production in 2019 and early in 2020 will, in part, carry forward into the 2020-21 season.”
Sheep and lamb turn off data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics to the end of June 2020 showed a 10pc decrease in total turn-off compared to the previous season, as producers in some regions of the country sought to rebuild their flocks. This is supported by results from the June 2020 AWI/MLA Wool and Sheep Meat survey which found that more than 40pc of producers intend to increase breeding ewe numbers, compared to 28pc of producers in 2019/20.
The committee also noted the substantial transfer of ewes and lambs from Western Australia to southern and eastern states during the first six months of 2020.
Sheep shorn this year down by 5.2pc
The committee said the number of sheep shorn this year is estimated to be down by 5.2pc, a key factor limiting recovery in shorn wool production in the short-term. This is particularly so in Western Australia and NSW, despite a gradual increase in annual average cut per head (up 2.9pc) as a result of improved seasonal conditions in many wool-growing regions.
AWTA test data showed that the average yield ended the 2019-20 season at 62.2pc, down 0.9pc on 2018-19, mean fibre diameter was unchanged at 20.5 microns while staple length increased by 2 mm to 85.6 mm as producers moved away from shorter shearing intervals (e.g. every 6-months) back to shearing every 8 or 12-months.