A wider look at non-mulesed Merino volumes


While the issue of mulesing continues in Australia, there is something like one third of the world Merino clip produced outside of Australia which is non-mulesed. This article takes a look at estimating the world proportion of non-mulesed Merino production by micron category, to provide a wider perspective.

In December  last year Mecardo looked at estimated world Merino production, showing the Australian proportion by micron category. On the broader side of the Australian fibre diameter distribution, Australia now accounts for only a small part of the supply. So, when Merino wool production is considered it is important to nominate micron categories or groupings because for some categories the non-Australian production is significant.

Figure 1 reproduces the estimated world Merino production graphic from the December article. It shows the Australian and estimated non-Australian production by micron category. As noted earlier, non-Australian production now dominates the broader micron categories. The assumption in this article is that the non-Australian production is effectively non-mulesed. That becomes quite significant for 21 micron and broader Merino wool.

In Australia, the proportion of ceased-mulesed/non-mulesed (CM-NM) wool continues to trend higher. For this article, the proportion by micron of Merino fleece wool (30mm and longer) sold this season has been used. This data is shown in Figure 2. It reveals the skew in non-mulesed declarations towards the fine micron categories, which is also skewed towards wool production in the higher rainfall zones. The finer micron categories have up to half of their volumes declared CM-NM, with the proportion falling to 10-12% for the biggest micron categories by volume.

For the purposes of this article, the assumption is made that the 30 mm and longer Merino fleece accounts for 78% of the Merino clip on a clean basis (view article from last week). This ignores pieces, bellies and cardings declared as CM-NM but allows a quick calculation of the main supply of non-mulesed wool.

Figure 3 adds together the proportion of non-Australian wool by micron as well as the proportion of Australian Merino wool by micron which is non-mulesed. For broad Merino wool the proportion which is non-mulesed is high (the alternate view is that the broad Merino wool sold in Australia which is non-mulesed is only a small part of the overall supply).

For the finer micron categories (15 micron and finer) 50-60% of supply is non-mulesed. It is the major micron categories by volume which have the lowest proportion of non-mulesed wool, with the 18 micron category coming in the lowest at 26%. These are the micron categories Australian production tends to dominate hence Australian levels of CM-NM wool will be most influential.

What does it mean?

The first point about non-mulesed wool is that the story varies between micron categories, significantly. For the supply chain, the low levels of non-mulesed wool in Australia in the medium micron ranges (18-20 micron) is the biggest issue as Australia is the major producer of these categories. The second point is that there is more supply available than many Australian farmers realise when non-Australian production is taken into account. This is good for the other regions as it gives them a solid selling point for the greasy wool.

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Key Points

  • Around one third of world Merino production is outside of Australia and is non-mulesed.
  • The distribution of non-mulesed wool is uneven between Merino micron categories.
  • In proportional terms, CM-NM wool is concentrated on the finer and broader Merino micron categories.

Click on figure to expand

Click on figure to expand

Click on figure to expand

Data sources: IWTO, AWEX, Independent Commodity Services P/L, Mecardo

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