TOUGH seasonal conditions have forced the Australian Wool Production Forecasting Committee to revise sharply downwards its shorn wool estimate for the current season.
Available on the Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) website from tomorrow (Friday, August 31), the latest wool production forecast estimates a 5.7 per cent decline in the national wool clip to 322 million kilograms greasy for 2018-19.
Due to the drought in New South Wales and Queensland, the forecasting committee predicts wool production will be hardest hit in those two States, down 8.9pc and 13.6pc respectively.
By comparison WA and Victoria, which alternate as second and third wool-producing states behind NSW, will be relatively well off for wool, with production declines limited to 3pc and 2.4pc because of better seasonal conditions, it predicts.
The committee expects national shorn sheep numbers this season to retreat to the 2016-17 level of 74.3 million head, a drop of 3.2pc on last season due to a high turn-off because of a dry second half to the last season in WA and the Eastern States.
Average wool cut per head is also expected to ease for the third season in a row, down 2.6pc on last season to 4.33kg a head.
These two factors - high turn-off and lighter cut - where major influences in the committee’s decision to revise its wool production forecast for 2018-19.
Committee chairman Russell Pattinson said a 10pc increase in sheep and lamb turn-off last season compared to 2016-17 (sheep 28pc increase year-on-year and lamb 5pc increase) reflected seasonal conditions in the main wool producing States that would also see a lighter cut per head.
“The committee’s first forecast for the 2018-19 season made in April at 333mkg assumed that normal seasonal conditions would prevail,” Mr Pattinson said.
“That has obviously not been the case with conditions worsening in many wool producing regions across Australia”.
How the season progresses over the next couple of months will be very important for overall production levels, he said.
The committee’s production estimate for 2017-18 was revised slightly upwards to 341mkg, 1mkg more than its 2016-17 total.
This was in line with Australian Wool Testing Authority (AWTA) data which showed a 0.6pc increase in bale numbers tested for the season and Australian Wool Exchange statistics which showed a 2.2pc increase in first-time bale offerings at auction.
AWTA data showed a decline in volume of 11.3pc for mid-micron wools tested but greater volume increases of 11.7pc for finer and broader micron wools tested.
WA’s contribution to the national clip last season was estimated to have dropped 8.5pc year-on-year to 65.1mkg due to the dry second half, reversing its wool production position with Victoria.
A bumper season in 2016-17 saw WA overtake Victoria by 3.7mkg in annual wool production, but it was estimated to be behind by 8.4mkg last season and predicted to be 8.5mkg behind again this season.