WOOL test data for November has confirmed the expected impact of the extended drought through New South Wales, northern Victoria and a large part of South Australia on the national spring clip.
While November test data from the Australian Wool Testing Authority (AWTA) showed a consistent 12.7 per cent decline in the number of bales tested in WA, compared to November last year, bale test numbers plummeted in NSW, Victoria and SA.
Wool supply has slowed to a trickle in SA with only 17,985 bales tested by AWTA in what normally would have been one of its busiest months at the end of spring shearing.
This was a drop of 33.2pc or close to 9000 bales, when compared to November last year.
In NSW the drop was 22.1pc or 13,426 bales, down to a total of 47,262 bales tested for the month.
With NSW the premier wool producing state, AWTA normally tests almost double the number of bales there during spring shearing months as it tests in WA, where autumn has taken over as the main shearing period.
But last month the difference had narrowed to 4559 bales, with 42,703 tested in WA.
A large portion of Victoria’s renowned Western District wool region has escaped the rainfall deficiencies further north, but AWTA still tested 21.3pc or 18,035 bales fewer in November in that State compared to the preceding year.
Australia-wide, AWTA tested 21pc or 48,411 fewer bales – with the national test tally down to 182,126 for November.
In September corresponding decreases in bale test numbers saw a 16pc decline in WA compared to an 18.7pc decline in SA, a 33pc decline in NSW and a 9.3pc decline in Victoria, illustrating the cumulative effect of the drought on NSW woolgrowers and its more sudden impact hitting home on woolgrowers in SA during spring shearing.
Wool test data for the season so far – July to November – compared to the same period last year, tells the same story of the drought beginning to bite hard in SA and really having a prolonged impact in NSW on woolgrowers.
WA is down 12.2pc on bales tested so far this season, SA is down 15.2pc, NSW is down 16.6pc, Victoria is down 8.4pc and the national wool test total is down 12.5pc.
Some WA wool brokers’ predictions of a predominance of lower yielding and shorter, finer, tender wool in NSW because of the drought have also been borne out by the latest test data.
With average yield sliding 2.1pc to 63.9pc for November in NSW, compared to November last year, it has fallen behind WA’s average yield of 64.1 – down 1.5pc – a reversal of the normal situation.
Average staple length in NSW shrank 4.2pc last month to 80.4 millimetres and fibre diameter was down 0.8pc to 20.3 micron, while staple strength declined 4.5pc to 31.8N/kt.
But the incidence of midbreak in NSW wool was reduced by 10.9pc to 39.6pc, according to AWTA’s data.
Those specifications compared to WA’s where average staple length eased 1.6pc to 85.3mm, diameter was down 0.3pc to 19.3 micron and staple strength was down 2.6pc to 28.7N/kt.
But incidence of midbreak jumped 9.5pc to 55.9pc in WA wool, the result of a long period of hand feeding through a dry autumn and early winter for many woolgrowers.
In SA and Victoria yields reduced slightly to 64pc and 66.4pc respectively and fibre diameters shrunk more than in WA but less than in NSW, with SA producing 20.9 micron wool on average and Victoria 21.6.
Staple lengths and strengths in both States also eased more than in WA but less than in NSW, to 86.3mm and 84.3mm and 31.3Nkt and 31.8N/kt, while the incidence of midbreak remained relatively steady at 52.8pc in both those States.
AWTA has tested 139.4 million kilograms of wool so far this season compared with 159.6mkg for the equivalent period last season.
With the release of November’s data last week, AWTA also announced it will now make its free monthly analytics service available via its website in Chinese language, a nod to the fact China buys more than 70pc of the Australian wool clip.
As if anticipating potential opportunities for WA woolgrowers from the decline in Eastern States’ production this season, the Western Indicator – a guide to the general strength of the WA wool market – jumped back above 2000 cents a kilogram clean before the close of trade at the Western Wool Centre (WWC) two weeks ago.
Although down 18c for the week – in contrast to the Sydney, Melbourne and benchmark Eastern Market indicators which all firmed – the Western Indicator put on 11c last Thursday to finish the week at 2009c/kg.
In a recent trading report Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX) technical controller Andrew Rickwood noted a very narrow range of prices across several micron segments continued to have an impact, allowing buyers to buy across segments with minimal cost penalty.
“The price differentials continue to restrict,” Mr Rickwood said.