The drought in significant parts of Australia over the past 18 months or so has been felt severely in wool production volumes and wool quality in 2018/19 and will continue to be felt over the next six months even if rainfall continues to be better than average over winter and spring. According to data from AWTA Ltd, the weight of wool tested for Australia was 17.3% lower in May compared with May 2018, with declines of almost 30% in NSW and Queensland and significant year-on-year falls in Victoria and South Australia. As a result, the weight of wool tested for the 11 months of the 2018/19 season (July 2018 to May) was 10.9% lower than for the same period in 2017/18.
There is quite a difference in the change in wool tested between states, reflecting the impact of the drought. All of the major sheep producing areas in mainland Australia have had lower than average rainfall to a great or lesser degree over the past 18 months. The most intense and widespread deficiencies have been seen across NSW (the largest wool producing state), much of South Australia, and significant parts of WA, Victoria and Queensland. Rainfall in Tasmania has been largely average. Unsurprisingly, the largest declines in the weight of wool tested has been in NSW, SA and Queensland. There have also been considerable declines in Victoria and WA.
The quality of wool has been also been affected, as indicated by the average fibre diameter, staple length, staple strength and yield. The mean fibre diameter for the 2018/19 season to May is at the lowest ever at 20.5 micron, while both yield (at 63.2%) and average staple length (at 83.7 mm) are well down on both the long-term average and compared with last season. Average staple strength has also declined this season compared with last season to 33.1 N/ktex, but is only a little lower than the long-term average.
Full details, including a map of rainfall deciles for the 18 months between December 2017 and May 2018 and the change in the weight of wool tested by state, and a chart showing the wool attributes this season against the historical levels are provided in the NCWSBA Weekly Newsletter. Available to members.