A patchy and dry winter, and a dry start to spring in many parts of Australia, are expected to pull Australian wool production back even further in 2008/09, according to the latest forecasts from the Australian Wool Production Forecasting Committee.
Australian shorn wool production is forecast to decline to 375 million kilograms (greasy) in the 2008/09 season, a 6pc decrease from the 2007/08 level.
This a modest change from the previous Committee forecast made in July.
The Committee expects production to fall in all states except for Queensland.
The main cause of the lower production is reducing sheep numbers from a continuing sell-off of sheep, encouraged by high prices for both lambs and sheep for slaughter and the live sheep trade.
"The season has been patchy but, in many areas, conditions have been dry throughout winter and into the start of spring," Committee chairman Russell Pattinson said.
"However, the Committee acknowledged that the season is in balance.
"Growers are reported to be considering a further sell off of both lambs and adult sheep as they are becoming concerned about the availability of feed if seasonal conditions remain dry."
The most significant change is expected to be in NSW - production in the largest wool producing state was expected to be up slightly in 2008/09, but the dry conditions, particularly in the south, have resulted in a significant sell-off of sheep in recent months and expected lower fleece weights.
"This is now forecast to bring a 5pc fall in wool production in that state," Mr Pattinson said.
The Committee was aided in its forecast by a survey of more than 1000 woolgrowers taken across Australia in July and early August, supervised by the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA) and funded by Australian Wool Innovation.
The survey reported that more than half the growers said they were experiencing below average or drought conditions.
Seasonal conditions are worst in Tasmania, with three-quarters of those surveyed saying they were in drought.
Wool production in Tasmania is expected to fall by 21pc.
In contrast, conditions were the best in Queensland, with more than 60pc reporting average or above average seasonal conditions.
The Committee predicts that wool production in that state will lift by 6pc.
"There are reports that some growers are interested in rebuilding their flocks, but this is unlikely to occur until we see a sustained improvement in seasonal conditions," Mr Pattinson said.