Nation's wool clip takes another hit

Woolgrowers face new torment as the elements take their toll on wool yields


Farm Online News
The recent dust storms carrying top soils from central west regions have made their way into the sheep's wool.

The recent dust storms carrying top soils from central west regions have made their way into the sheep's wool.

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New torment for woolgrowers as dust and shorter wools sees national average clip yield lower.

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The ongoing drought and arduous conditions taking it's toll on the production of Merino wool is not a new struggle for Australian woolgrowers. 

For months we have seen 'drought' or tender wools entering the wool market coupled with the dwindling supply due to sheep growing less wool because of seasonal conditions, and flock numbers are diminishing as farmers have been forced to destock.

The amount of wool tested in January 2019 compared to January 2018 was down 12 per cent to 151,013 bales, according to reports from the Australian Wool Testing Authority (AWTA). 

Last week 179,089 fewer bales were offered at auction, a reduction of 14.8 per cent compared to the corresponding sale of the previous season.

In the northern region, Thursday's sale was the smallest Merino fleece offering in 12 months. The weekly total was the smallest sale in almost five years.

The recent dust storms that carried top soils from the central west regions across the eastern states have settled into the wools on the sheep's backs only adding to the torment of the season.  

Figures from AWTA at the end of January show the nations's wool clip average yield was 63.5pc (dry yield) opposed to an average of 65pc last year caused by dust and shorter wools. 

Just 40pc of wool tested in NSW is above 70pc yield, that equates to about four in 10 bales with a yield above 70pc. 

In Victoria the figures show an improvement, a reflection the dry conditions are not as wide spread with over 60pc testing above 70pc.

But in Western Australia the figures are again disappointing, with just 38pc of wool tested above 70pc yield. 

James Lillie, managing director of Fox and Lillie Wool Brokers, Melbourne, said dusty wools are not uncommon in the market.  

"There is nothing on the ground but dirt in some areas," Mr Lillie said 

"This is not a new phenomenon, the drought has been around for a while and it has probably been between six to eight months that yields have been significantly lower. 

"But it is getting a little bit worse day by day."

He said there is a technical issue with dusty wool. 

"It has an real impact - it is harder to scourer the wool, it's not as bright then as it is hard to get all of the dust out of the wool, and you have to use more water," Mr Lillie said. 

Scott Carmody, Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) trade consultant said it all comes back to clean kilos of wool. 

"The concern about the low yield has to come down to the amount of clean fibre we are producing," Mr Carmody said.

"We normally test around 300 million kilograms of greasy wool annually, but that is not the true indication that comes out the other end of the processing.

"In a normal year the Australian wool clip averages around 65 to 65.5pc dry combed yield across the entire nation.

"At 65pc average yield we would be talking about producing 195 million clean kilos of wool a year. 

"But if you take that down to what it is this year, at 63.5pc yield, we are at 190 million clean kilos.

"That's five million less kilos of clean wool produced off exactly the same amount." 

The major effect of lower yields, therefore, is on the producer's income, said Mr Carmody. 

"Even though it's a hard pill to swallow, because of that yield, the clean price that we are still paying them is the same," he said.

"But when they get their sale accounts they are getting less money because it is paid out in greasy kilos." 

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