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Silver lining to low wool production
Jul '09
While Australian wool production is forecast to remain at 80 year lows this year, there are signs of recovery as higher sheep prices and better rainfall are positive signs for Merino ewe production.

“While sheep numbers in 2009/10 are lower, reports from the State committees indicate that growers are keen to retain Merino ewes as the basis of their enterprises, which is a positive for wool production beyond 2009/10,” Australian Wool Production Forecasting Committee Chairman, Russell Pattinson, said.

The Committee has revised its forecast for Australian shorn wool production in 2009/10 to 330 mkg greasy, compared with its March forecast of 335 mkg greasy. The forecast for 2009/10 is around 30 mkg greasy lower than the 2008/09 season.

Committee Chairman, Russell Pattinson, added “the main driver for the lower wool production in 2009/10 is the lower number of sheep in Australia. The Australian sheep flock is being affected by the production of sheep for meat, with more lambs being produced and slaughtered and strong demand for live export, particularly from Western Australia.”

The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently released its final estimate of the number of sheep in Australia as at 1st July 2008. At 76.9 million head, this is 2.3 million less than ABS' preliminary estimate.

Based on this lower estimate, together with the latest statistics on sheep and lamb slaughterings and live sheep exports from the ABS, the Committee estimates that opening sheep numbers for the 2009/10 season will be around 70 million head, a fall of around 8%.

“Even though there has been good rain in northern Australia and at least some rainfall in southern Australia in recent weeks, average fleece weights are likely to be up only slightly in 2009/10. Fleece weights will be lower than historical levels due to fewer heavier-cutting wethers and more ewes and lambs in the national flock.”

The Committee also estimates that shorn wool production in 2008/09 was at 359 mkg greasy, a fall of 10% compared with the 2007/08 season. This is higher than the March forecast as AWTA wool tests in April-June were higher than previously anticipated.

The national Committee drew on advice from the six state committees, each of which includes brokers, growers, private treaty merchants, representatives from state departments of agriculture, and the Australian Wool Testing Authority.

Wool production is forecast to fall in every state in 2009/10, with the smallest percentage declines compared with 2008/09 expected in Tasmania and South Australia, and the largest declines expected in the largest wool producing states of Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria.

“The Committee also expects that the production of superfine wool will see the greatest percentage fall in 2009/10. This reduction is due to a combination of better seasonal conditions in some areas, greater use of terminal sires and a focus by growers on a combination of fleece and body weights,” Mr Pattinson said.

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