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Wool Production Forecast Lowered as Drought Continues in Australia

The ongoing drought in Australia has caused the Australian Wool Production Forecasting Committee (AWPFC) to lower its outlook for the 2019-2010 season.

The committee’s new forecast for shorn wool production is down 5 percent to 285 million kilograms from 300 million kilograms in 2018-2019, which puts it 12.1 percent below 2017-2018 numbers, reflecting “the sustained dry and drought conditions across large parts of the country, particularly in Eastern Australia.”

“Seasonal conditions in key wool producing regions in western Victoria, southeast South Australia and Western Australian are reasonable,” acting AWPFC committee chairman Chris Wilcox said. “However significant parts of New South Wales, Queensland, eastern Victoria and the pastoral regions of South Australia continue to experience dry to drought conditions.”

The committee, part of Australian Wool Innovation, said the key factor limiting a recovery in shorn wool production is the number of sheep shorn, following high adult sheep slaughter rates in 2018-2019 and a lower lamb population.

“Tough seasonal conditions have continued to negatively affect pasture feed availability, and low supplies of hay and grain have prompted many producers to make difficult decisions to reduce the number of sheep on farms,” Wilcox said. “Availability of stock water is also reported to be a key issue in some areas, notably in New South Wales and Queensland.”

According to the Committee, results from the latest surveys indicated that wool producers intend to hold onto and perhaps increase breeding ewe numbers. However, the committee acknowledged that this requires normal spring rainfall through many wool producing areas to build soil moisture, on-farm water supplies and allow good pasture growth.

“The dry finish to the 2018-19 season in some areas resulted in further reductions in key wool test parameters since April,” Wilcox said. “Average yield ended the season at 63.1 percent, down 1.5 percent on 2017-18, while mean fiber diameter was down by 0.5 microns to 20.5 micron and staple length was down 2.2 millimeters. The season ending levels of these three key test parameters are either at, or near, the lowest levels since the 2000-01 season.”