Skip to main content

A Drought is Impacting Australian Wool, Lowering Production Outlook

The Australian Wool Production Forecasting Committee has forecast that Australian shorn wool production for 2018-2019 will be down 12.7 percent from 2017-2018 to 298 million kilograms.

The new forecast, according to the committee, reflects the continuing drought conditions across large parts of Australia. It is also lower than its forecast of 305 million kilograms presented in November.

Adult sheep numbers continued to decline during the 2018-2019 season, and committee chairman Russell Pattinson said this forecast assumes a return of normal seasonal conditions. The impact of the drought is expected to continue into the new season due, in part, to reported low scanning and lambing percentages in 2018/19.

Along with a reduction in raw wool production, Pattinson said there have also been significant changes in key test parameters, a further reflection of ongoing dry conditions.

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

Terry Smith, a wool, lamb and beef producer on Scarsdale Station, New South Wales, told ABC News Australia, “We’ve been feeding stock now for 18 to 20 months, which is quite unusual for this area. No-one feeds stock as a rule if we can get away with it. We have destocked to about 20 percent of our normal capacity, and it’s just a matter of waiting until we get the right season and the right rain to start to rebuild.”

Meanwhile, Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), the wool growers marketing arm, said in its recent “Market Intelligence” report that the lower wool supply is balanced by the global economic slowdown in demand.

“Those choosing to use wool in their retail collections are adapting to higher prices for wool with more blends, broader wool and more knitted fabrics for casual and sporting wear rather than formal clothing which is traditionally woven,” AWI said. “As a natural and renewable fiber, wool is still in demand at retail and the requests for higher traceability and transparency will offer woolgrowers and collective woolgrower marketing groups greater opportunities in the future.”